We have made it to 2021. Vaccinations bring hope and a light at the end of this global-pandemic tunnel. But the crisis is not over yet, and with it come opportunities for long-term planning and evolutionary growth.
As a result of the pandemic, companies are adapting to serve their customers in new and different ways. Flexible work arrangements and virtual platforms are becoming the norm and increasing both productivity and work-life balance. Customers are looking for places that prioritize safety and efficiency as well as personal relationships and commitment to community-oriented values. Amid all of this, businesses heading into 2021 report that their primary concern remains keeping money coming in the door.
How can lawyers help? By highlighting the steps businesses can take to reduce risk, prevent loss or further expense, avoid litigation, and stay on mission. Having spent decades helping companies navigate expensive lawsuits, we know exactly how costly and risky the courtroom can be. Now is the time for battening down the hatches: preparing for trouble, securing weak spots, and tightening the ship to survive not only the waning days of a global pandemic but also the fundamentally different ecosystem that will follow.
In the coming weeks, we will explore some of those steps here.
Crisis plan. Crisis can strike anytime, anywhere. Global pandemics, civil unrest, hurricanes, floods, devastating accidents, power outages, cyber-attacks—the list is endless. In times of crisis, your company’s leadership team has the responsibility to make critical decisions about the company’s future under extreme stress and often, without all the facts. Having a formal, written, and tested crisis plan will equip your company with the tools needed to survive a crisis.
Data security. The seismic shift to work-at-home and remote services means companies are aggressively expanding their technological platform. Client-centric business models often require collection of data, particularly customer data, as paramount to providing attractive customer services. But this also brings inherent and increased risk of privacy compromise from data breach or mishandling. Businesses of all sizes need to have meaningful, practical approaches to protecting data from intrusion, theft, and mishandling—and, of course, from litigation.
Information preservation. The flip side to data security is the preservation of information critical to business function. Traditional wisdom recommends keeping everything. Many laws require preservation of information for certain statutorily mandated periods of time. And anyone who has been in a lawsuit knows the fundamental importance of preserving information for and in response to litigation. But keeping everything is becoming impractical, inefficient, expensive, and often unnecessary. Developing practical and useful information preservation strategies is critical to managing risk.
Protection of intellectual property (IP). Businesses can take simple first steps to protect their IP—their names, logos, copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Risks to IP often come from unexpected corners: employees and contractors who help create systems or processes the employer owns; vendors with access; licensees; publishing companies. A structure and strategy for best practices can help a business protect some of its most important work.
Employee safety and relationships. The landscape for protecting employees and maintaining healthy employee relationships has broadened. Remote work, COVID-19 exposure, civil unrest, compensation requirements, and the expansion of employee engagement create an opportunity for businesses to revisit their employment policies and strategies.
Behavior and culture as risk management. We see it all the time: relationships and behavior lead to disputes that lead to litigation. Toxic workplace cultures bleed into the customer experience. Bad behavior, or non-productive behavior, inhibits companies from adapting to changing circumstances or developing into their potential. Customers and investors are demanding a greater focus on diversity, equality, and inclusiveness in business composition and services. Businesses can and should develop internal standards for behavior and culture. Such standards will create a healthy work environment that is conducive to success and allow businesses to better engage with their communities.
By addressing each of these topics, we hope to assist businesses in battening down their hatches so that they may continue to prepare for and weather any impending storm.