How would law firms advise their clients to conduct business during the pandemic and post COVID-19?
As COVID-19 continues to impact people and economies around the world, we anticipate a slow and uneven recovery, posing new challenges for most industries including law firms. However, it also presents new opportunities for lawyers to enhance resilience for the long term. To embrace the “new normal”, our firm invites clients to consider the following issues:
1. Address customer demands
COVID-19 has changed behavioral patterns of customers in many industries, and the new patterns are likely to continue post COVID-19. People are getting more used to go online for a large range of activities including shopping, managing bank and financial transactions, making payments, hosting conferences, submitting documents and making applications for various purposes. For example, in a survey titled “Future Consumer Index: How to serve the ‘Anxious Consumer’ after COVID-19” published in May 2020, approximately 44% of global consumers indicated they would be more likely to do grocery shopping online as a result of the pandemic. On the other hand, due to the social distancing requirements, people reduce their travelling and physical meetings. Thus, businesses in the tourism industry and those which sell goods and services mainly via physical stores, as well as their suppliers and sub-contractors, may have to adjust their business models, adapt to new customer behaviors and address new demands.
2. Look after your workforce
The wellbeing of the workforce is both a duty of care and a business imperative. It is important to effectively address the employees’ concerns in a timely fashion. The income of some employees in certain industries is adversely affected by COVID-19, but the employer may keep its workforce engaged by, for example, regularly updating them of the strategies to cope with the difficult times, providing the necessary epidemic prevention supplies to them and their families, and encouraging them to suggest innovative business tactics.
For an employer which adopted a remote working practice during the most severe pandemic times, it may consider continuing such practice wholly or partially post COVID-19. If so, it needs to utilize suitable technologies and working processes, including crowdsourcing, risk apps and collaboration platforms, in a way that allows its people to work efficiently in a safe environment.
3. Identify legal issues
COVID-19 has left and may continue to leave a range of legal turmoil. Identifying potential risks is critical for businesses looking to weather an anticipated storm of business disruptions and litigations. While the risk management measures may vary by sector, geography and culture, the following suggestions may assist in-house counsel to manage common legal risks:
► Analyze supply chains, identify interruptions, review contracts governing relationships with significant stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, business partners, customers and banks), as well as capture key information needed for the senior management to make informed decisions;
► Review the “force majeure” or hardship clauses in contracts and assess whether preconditions have been fulfilled for either party to invoke force majeure;
► Consider whether the standard corporate governance, legal/regulatory compliance and internal control practices can still be feasible, and if not, come up with alternative ways;
► Review employment contracts, policies and procedures, as well as local employment laws, to help ensure compliance across all employee types in all relevant jurisdictions;
► Build an effective communication and information sharing protocol within the organization even if the colleagues cannot tend to duties in the usual way, so that new business strategies and tactics, governmental requirements and subsidies, business environment changes can be conveyed to the relevant personnel within the organization;
► Evaluate the validity and enforceability of insurance contracts, and assess their coverage and limitations in a crisis context.
What technology is available to assist in-house counsel?
By embracing today’s technology-driven innovations, businesses are looking for ways to efficiently conduct high-volume, cross-border, routine and event-driven legal projects while allowing in-house legal counsel to use their time on important matters and to integrate seamlessly with other corporate functions.
A survey titled “Why the legal function must be reimagined for the digital age” published in April 2019 reveals that, even before the pandemic:
With the acquisitions of Riverview Law and Thomson Reuters Pangea3, EY Law is reshaping the future of legal functions through its Legal Managed Services (LMS) by customizing technology and data-driven processes designed to control costs, better mitigate risks, and deliver value to businesses in today’s ever-changing regulatory landscape. By and large, LMS simplifies complex business processes and empowers in-house resources to be utilized in a more efficient, productive and cost-effective way.
EY Law provides legal advisory services in 80+ jurisdictions by 2,400+ lawyers. EY Law LMS team has accumulated 15+ years of experience while backed by 1,100+ professionals across 8 global delivery centers.
Our firm, LC Lawyers LLP, is an independent firm, but also a Hong Kong law firm member of the global EY network, in collaboration with other law firm members. We provide legal advisory services and support delivery of LMS.
The key features of LMS include:
► Contract lifecycle management: LMS supports the whole contracting process from pre-execution to post-execution, allowing clients to enhance efficiency, cost control, contract consistency and repository building.
► Research and regulatory mapping: The LMS’s research and regulatory mapping team helps clients to keep updated of changes in relevant laws, regulations, codes and guidelines from applicable jurisdictions around the world.
► Entity compliance and governance: The LMS’s entity compliance and governance team delivers integrated and holistic approach across the legal entity lifecycle and helps companies navigate the evolving landscape of corporate governance.
► Document review and functional analysis: LMS empowers voluminous document reviews and extracts data relevant to clients’ specific purposes. It also supports deviation analysis and risk review.
In-house counsel must ensure that their companies remain compliant with an ever‑changing regulatory and transparency landscape, while managing the day‑to‑day operations of their legal departments. For many general counsel and company directors, turning to EY Law LMS can offer a solution to some of these growing challenges.
About LC Lawyers
1. Asia Allied Infrastructure Holdings Limited
2. Chiho Environmental Group Limited
3. Fullshare Group Limited
4. Greenheart Group Limited
5. Greentown Service Group Co. Ltd.
6. HC Group Inc.
7. Justice Without Borders
8. Li Ning Company Limited
9. Nexion Technologies Limited
10. Overseas Chinese Town (Asia) Holdings Limited
11. Tianjin Jinran Public Utilities Company Limited