You know what happens when a rubberband is stretched too far. It snaps. The surge in just the past week is stretching many law departments. And there is more to come.
To recap. In the past few days, SXSW canceled the iconic tech and music festival. Facebook canceled its annual F8 Developers Conference. Google canceled its Cloud Next Conference. TED canceled its TED2020 conference. The Ultra Music Festival has been canceled. Some sporting events are being played without spectators. Schools have converted classes to online only. Many businesses have canceled large or company-wide meetings. Many tourist attractions in Italy, Japan, China and other countries have been closed. The list of events, meetings, and attractions canceled or closed is expected to continue to grow.
The cancellation of events does not even begin to address the economic impact of the virus. Apple announced it would not meet its current quarter revenue projections. Fortune magazine reports that “[a]ccording to Amenity Analytics, a natural language processing company, references to “coronavirus” have been made over 8,000 times across over 1,000 companies on earnings call transcripts, as of Feb. 26.” Major stock indexes have declined as much as 12% since their high on February 19.
The virus is hitting something even closer to home for many business–their supply chains. And disruption of supply chains often results in failure to meet sales obligations.
I could go on, but I don’t think anyone believes that, health risks aside, the coronavirus is not a significant threat to businesses. There is going to be a lot of new, virus-driven and virus-related work that will end up with law departments. Force majeure will go from drafting afterthought to a clause discussed in boardrooms. HR departments will need to be advised on policies regarding health and safety. There will be negotiations with suppliers and also with purchasers. Calls may pour in. Some companies will need to have their in-house teams pay close attention to virus-related issues, meaning other work does not get done. Some issues are not manpower issues, but data-extraction issues–how many contracts of a certain type has the company entered?
Each business will have its own set of problems. While some of the problems are not legal ones per se, most have at least a legal element or feel like they are legal. When no one else is equipped to handle problems that require multi-disciplinary talents, most businesses send those problems to the law department; the law department that already, in all likelihood, is at capacity or stretched thin with inadequate budgetary resources. The challenge will be daunting.
This need for multi-disciplinary resources to provide solutions to customers’ business problems is precisely why Nicole Aurebach and I took the lessons we had learned as founders of Valorem Law Group and joined Elevate Services and created ElevateNext Law just about two years ago. The heavy lifting of data extraction from contracts (just how many of these contracts do we have?) isn’t effectively handled by lawyers. Such tasks can be handled more effectively and faster by a computer. Are temporary resources needed to analyze contracts to identify recourse if suppliers can’t ship their product to us? Are we being flooded by inquiries who have bought something from us that we may not deliver? Traditional law firms might provide an answer to some of these questions, but we joined Elevate because it has the depth of resources to help customers solve their business problems.
If we can help, contact us.