26 March What law firms and in-house legal are doing to combat the threat of coronavirus March 26, 2020 By AMPLA Admin General, Industry COVID-19, Law Firms, In House 0 The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is drastically changing how we live, work and even play. For law firms and in-house legal practitioners, that means balancing the concerns of your clients with safeguarding your own staff. In some ways, small firms have an advantage over their larger counterparts. Moving to remote or online work is simpler with fewer moving parts to accommodate. On the other hand, it can be challenging to meet the increased needs of your clients at this anxious time. For in-house legal services, the size of the challenge becomes one of risk management for their organisation. But even those with strong governance and business continuity plans in place are struggling to manage many of the unprecedented issues they’re facing today. At the time of publication, a third of the world’s population is under lockdown. That’s causing demand for oil and gas to plummet, plus logistical nightmares for companies who rely on FIFO workers, as so many in energy and resources do. China’s early shutdown has seen construction crash. The flow-on effect is that China now has more steel in stock than it can use, reducing demand for steel feedstocks and possibly also inputs like nickel, alumina and bauxite. On top of these industry-specific concerns come the usual worries. How do we protect our business in challenging times? How can I ensure that my staff stay employed? What are my industrial obligations? To meet the challenge of the times, take a leaf out of other organisation’s books. Divide and conquer To reduce risks, some companies have divided operating groups into teams. This allows them to have different teams attending the workplace on alternate days or weeks, some with separate entry and exit points, toilets and break rooms. This enables them to quarantine one part of a team from the other and to allow isolation. It also ensures there is focused decontamination in the event a member of a team tests positive for COVID-19. This approach has allowed some companies to avoid the closure of their entire operations or buildings while still protecting staff from cross-contamination and enabling rapid cleaning of affected areas. Practice proactive outreach Sydney firm Bartier Perry was better prepared than most to face the crisis, with a pandemic response already in place. That’s freed them up to focus on their clients. Their webpage is full of helpful information, and each lawyer is reaching out to clients to talk to them about how to prepare and protect themselves. Whether your client is an internal business function or an external client, that proactive approach is crucial for good client success. Many clients may not yet realise that they have a problem, may not be focusing on the right things or may be scrambling to find an appropriate response. Reaching out now can help them put a robust prevention plan in place so that if they do get hit with a supply chain problem or plummeting demand they know how to respond. For in-house legal in particular this response package from Gadens may be particularly helpful in helping to identify and manage the plethora of issues that are evolving each day. Adopt digital communication At AMPLA, we’ve quickly adopted digital forms of communication to assist our members. Our support includes running virtual webinars on how to deal with the pandemic to putting in place plans to host online learning and development programs over the coming weeks to continue to keep businesses informed and focused on all the issues at hand. While not the same as shaking someone’s hand, today’s digital tools still allow people to see each other and there’s nothing as powerful as face-to-face communication to build and protect a trusting relationship. That’s why Herbert Smith Freehills have moved to client meetings via “phone, Skype or webinar”. Many corporations have already adopted this approach to managing meetings and keeping the lines of communication open. In fact, this may be an opportunity for law firms to pivot to meet long-standing client desires. A 2018 survey found that 34% of law firm clients would prefer firms to offer video conferencing and instant messaging. Firms have been slow to respond until now, but should certainly consider adopting these technologies in the long as well as short term. Make the pandemic the focus It’s all anyone is thinking about at the moment. BakerHostetler and Alston & Bird, in the US, have both developed coronavirus task forces comprised of lawyers from multiple practice areas. That way they can focus on the immediate issue and any broader ramifications at the same time. Most businesses have also created their own internal teams to manage each aspect of the crisis, and in-house legal is integral to those teams in ensuring the business remains protected. With things changing all the time, legal providers who can adapt fast will be in a much stronger position once the pandemic is over. Related Articles The impact of coronavirus on the energy and resources industry The last few weeks have seen the world face an unprecedented disruption with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). First reported in China, we’re now seeing many countries shutting down for periods of time to try to contain the spread of the virus. Australia is facing a particularly difficult year given the bushfires that ravaged the country recently. Now with COVID-19 adding to the pain, the energy and resources industry is being impacted in several ways outlined below. What is concerning mining and metals industry executives today? Recent surveys conducted in the mining and metals industry sector indicate that climate change, price volatility and the risk of a global depression are the top concerns for executives. The KMPG Mining Risk Forecast 2020/21 Report nominates climate change and price risks as top-of-mind for executives while a mid-year survey by White & Case found that the fear of a global recession was the most common concern amongst those surveyed. It’s worth noting that the KMPG survey was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the concerns raised have ongoing relevance both now and into the future. Climate change action is being driven by business and industry While everyone’s focus in recent months has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change was top of everyone’s mind when the year began with bushfires ravaging Australia. The pandemic has seen individuals and organisations assess their ideologies and perspectives on a range of topics, climate change being one of them. It now seems that climate change is back on everyone’s agenda and none more so than business and industry. How foreign investment changes may impact the mining and energy sector In early June 2020, the government announced a review of the foreign investment rules, expanding them to apply to all foreign investors in anything deemed a ‘sensitive national security business’. The changes are scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2021. There are concerns that this will impact foreign investment in the mining and energy sectors, and in particular the critical minerals space. Energy industry and government response to COVID-19 In response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, government and industry have come together to ensure the community, economy and industry are supported. The Council of Australian Governments Energy Council (COAG Energy Council) has formed the Energy Coordination Mechanism (ECM) which is expected to have a complete plan by the end of April. The immediate focus of these efforts has been on four areas Dealing with market volatility in the oil and gas industry The oil and gas industry is experiencing unprecedented volatility since prices slumped in March following the collapse of the OPEC+ supply pact. In the past week alone oil prices have reached historical lows with West Texas crude reaching approximately -US$40 a barrel in future trades. Volatility has been driven by reduced output from Russia quickly followed by lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. This is impacting economic growth across the world, with the OECD already lowering its global economic growth estimate for 2020 from 2.9% to 2.4%. The longer the outbreak continues, the greater the decline in global growth and the corresponding fall in demand for energy. Showing 0 Comment Comments are closed.