As companies continue to settle in new work environments and business patterns, their law firms and legal departments are being asked to intervene on various fronts. In many cases, these legal advisors are adding to their own teams of contract lawyers to help them not only resolve immediate problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, such as: B. Close technical gaps in areas such as employment and cybersecurity, but also longer-term infringement and corporate restructuring matters.
Some of the subject areas that are in particularly high demand are discussed below.
Work experience. When employees were sent home to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic, companies struggled to provide everyone with the technology and security they needed. If left open, they would have to look at their workplace through the lens to protect their employees from potential physical harm. In each of these cases, employment policy and protection were scrutinized. Solid legal counsel is essential to getting everything right.
Among other things, employers have changed or replaced their employee manuals to accommodate new protocols for work schedules and approved equipment and safety procedures, as well as flexible solutions for employees who are now responsible for care at home. Companies with a permanent presence on site must also introduce appropriate preventive health measures and set standards for safety and hygiene in the workplace.
These companies turn to lawyers with expertise in employment to help them revise their policies and manuals. Review, draft and negotiate personnel agreements; and manage claims submitted by employees. What kind of claims? Workers’ Comp, OSHA, CARES Act – you name it. In fact, here is a non-exhaustive list of the types of entitlements we see in employment:
- COVID-19 exposure, such as occupational health and safety, and OSHA whistleblower claims
- WARN Act and EEOC claims related to termination or vacation
- Labor law claims at the NLRB
- Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and Family First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) paid sick / emergency family vacation entitlement
- Retaliation claims
- Disability claims
- Wage and hourly entitlements in connection with work from home
- Claims from non-essential workers who had to come to work
- False claims for death and injury
The speed with which employers have had to adapt their companies and policies has left many open to labor and employment disputes. Lawyers who can help them clarify everything are in great demand.
Expertise in cybersecurity, SaaS, data protection and GDPR. Remote working has posed a multitude of security challenges for companies tasked with setting up systems and processes to protect their data, networks and employees.
For starters, employees are using communication technologies that may be new to them as they now need to do business virtually. You need guidelines for using these technologies safely and for understanding potential data breaches or other cybercrimes. Without their corporate headquarters’ strict security protocols, these employees can be far more vulnerable to scams such as phishing designed to trick them into disclosing sensitive company information. Lawyers with knowledge and experience in cybersecurity, privacy, and GDPR are in high demand as new policies and agreements are introduced.
SaaS (Software as a Service) agreements have also become a hot button problem. Organizations are increasingly turning to SaaS solutions to meet their software needs, and drawing up these complex agreements to protect customer interests requires specialized knowledge.
Niche experience. The effects of the pandemic look different depending on the industry, which is why lawyers with niche experience are in great demand. For example, in the financial sector, companies are looking for additional help from lawyers who are familiar with creating market data, credit and securitization and shipment agreements. Law firms seek experience in investment management, private funds, asset management and bankruptcy law.
Beyond these industry-specific requirements, the demand for complex trade disputes is increasing as breaches of contract and other disputes arise due to the inability of companies to meet certain obligations. We can also expect a growing need for real estate attorneys as companies scramble to renegotiate their leases and for M&A attorneys as strategic transaction opportunities arise in the wake of the pandemic.
Of course, contract lawyers not only have to offer support in these specialist areas, but also have to be technologically competent. Automation is playing an increasingly important role in the law firms and legal departments that hire such attorneys. Digitization helps companies to rationalize processes and contain costs. Lawyers must be able to navigate databases and systems as part of their daily work. Technically savvy contract lawyers will continue to be in demand for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of the legal challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, contract lawyers can provide companies with a viable, cost-conscious approach to building their knowledge, expertise and experience.