Top 5 Pieces of Advice from In-House Counsel

On March 19, Shepard Davidson of the In-House Advisor led a video conference amongst 15 General Counsel and Corporate Counsel focused on how they and their businesses are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis The participants work for  entities ranging from small, local companies to large, multi-national enterprises. Here are the key takeaways from their roundtable discussion:

  1. In internal communications, more is more. You are better off saying too much than too little. One of the best ways to keep people in your organization calm is to repeatedly and consistently send out messages to everyone. Some of the specific ways that this can be implemented are by: sending out daily updates to your staff, hosting weekly virtual “town hall” meetings with Q&A sessions, and maintaining an intranet with updated COVID-19 information. Likewise, if you are concerned with how your employees are handling the situation and/or viewing the company’s response to the crisis, consider sending out a brief questionnaire.
  2. Assume it will get worse – and prepare accordingly. Be sure to have at least one member of your Crisis Management Team constantly monitoring the CDC and WHO, as new information is continuously coming out. While everyone would like to think that the situation won’t get any worse, your crisis management team needs to assume it will, and figure out what it will do in each successive “worse” scenario. Failing to do that and focusing solely on managing the present situation is failing to prepare.
  3. Take heed from others – and those who have lived it. Be sure that your Crisis Management Team is not too insular. Getting input from people outside the group may lead to better decisions, planning, and creativity. While predicting what may happen next is nearly impossible, you may be able to gain valuable insight by looking at similar businesses in geographic areas that are “ahead” of you in the spread of the virus.
  4. Have a backup plan, featuring backup personnel. It is essential to create redundancies in your staff so that if someone becomes incapacitated, someone else can take that person’s place in the least disruptive manner possible. This includes having people prepared to step in if someone on your Crisis Management Team becomes debilitated (and provides another reason to keep people outside the Team in the loop on what is happening).
  5. Take a “hands-on” approach to managing your social distancing workforce. How are businesses dealing with special requests from workers? There does not appear to be any best practices. Some companies are saying no to all special requests, while others (at present) are saying yes to most. The responses appear to have a lot to do with the size of the business and expectations for that business going forward. Whatever general position your company might take, expect to be barraged with ever increasing special requests from your workforce and think through how you might respond. A special note on working at home: it is critical to be sure that workers who have access to confidential information use company approved systems for accessing it and do not transfer such information to personal laptops, etc.

As our economy and workforce collectively weather the spread of COVID-19, we will continue to keep you updated with the latest “need to know” news and ideas to help improve your business practices in this unprecedented time.


About the Author: Shepard Davidson
Shepard Davidson is a partner and former co-chair of Burns & Levinson’s Business Litigation Group, as well as a current member of its Executive Committee. He also is a member of the Labor, Employment & Employee Benefits practice. Shep concentrates his practice in the areas of complex business torts, contract claims, non-compete litigation and disputes involving closely held businesses. He can be reached at sdavidson@burnslev.com or 617.345.3336.

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