What’s next? How will this play out? How to get ready? Where are we exactly in this thing?
Top legal decision makers are asking themselves these very same questions. This thinking dominates client’s mental energy. They may be working on other issues – but this is where their focus lies. The result; profound short- and long-term impacts for law firms and corporate counsel alike. Here are the 7 overriding themes:
The Big Return – The When
One tricky part of the return to work is when. States are starting to open. Companies want to get back to whatever will be the new next. But they wrestle with the unknowns: is it safe, is there another wave coming, do they want to be among the leaders and open first – or it too big a risk? Just a few but outsized questions impacting their entire organization – and, in some cases, entire communities.
The Actual Return to Work – How
Corporate counsel already see conflicts in ensuring health and safety protocols which they may be required to implement. Companies talk of taking temperatures, checking other vital signs, and asking health-related questions. A few have talked about hiring nurses.
Employees are already asking what happens to this data, where is it going, and how will it be tagged for identity. Some employees and employee advocates are asking if companies have the right to do any of this at all. Clients are looking for solutions on the regulatory, data privacy, and employee safety standpoints.
Regulatory & Compliance
Clients are facing new regulations in banking, stimulus loans, data privacy, health care, trade, and the workforce. Part of the workforce regulatory issues are comingled with reopening, but not all. We are hearing about discrimination, sexual harassment, and gender pay equality. Add in changes in HIPPA and deep concerns about potential whistle blowers who draw conclusions with limited information about company actions and decisions.
Virtually, nobody expects their overall legal budget to increase. And, the rare clients expecting increases aren’t expecting much. But everyone is expecting substantial additions to their litigation portfolios and compliance needs – and the spending these will demand. Clients are reallocating work, stalling, settling, and otherwise managing their litigation portfolio and budgets – all while estimating their needs for the next wave. Few have made their final decisions but remember this – most clients submit the first draft of their budget this July (as in July 2020) for 2021. It will be changed and adjusted, but this is the first deadline. And they are working on it right now.
You can help clients prioritize, find tactics to delay certain matters, leverage secondments and other law firm resources, and join their planning process to help reallocate resources. This is high-value counsel at its best – you are helping clients get things done. Maybe not as sexy as transformational M&A or bet-the-company litigation – but equal in leaving your imprint as a trusted and valued advisor.
Clients in select decimated industries – hospitality, retail, transportation, and energy – are thinking through their restructuring options. Companies in dire need of restructuring are placing this need over almost all others.
The companies serving these decimated industries are almost equally concerned about restructuring to protect their receivables and other financial commitments. This group is larger than the group above and do not expect to need a full-fledged restructuring but may need help with creditor committees and other related assignments.
The only questions are when, what kind, and how much. Clients know it’s coming. They expect the workforce related suits and class actions to grow. Class actions are expected from the pandemic and regulatory issues related to data privacy. The expected litigation category also includes supply chain and force majeure issues. And insurance coverage litigation will jump on the scene. However, clients are spending a large part of their time trying to anticipate the unexpected – things not on the list.
The more you help clients go through the what-ifs, share experiences, toss out ideas, and otherwise personally engage with your client – the better your chances of developing a stronger client relationship and winning the new work with no competition.
You May or May Not Be Stunned
Clients tell us few partners are jumping in to help with these issues. You have a rare opportunity to stand out, add value, and develop almost impenetrable client bonds – all for being part of the process of helping clients get through the toughest budgeting season they may have ever seen. Use 1 or all of the 8 Business BD Tactics Winning New Work Since the Pandemic Started.
In response to popular demand, we are now offering private web-based briefings on current market/practice outlooks and business development tactics. Please contact me for more info.
Be safe. Be well.
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