Multiple law firms have invested in back to work information technology, saying it offers the speed and cost-friendliness law firms need to keep clients up-to-date on the evolving shutdown lifts.
Governments are reopening their states with varying requirements, and law firms view tech-based solutions as their best bet for keeping their clients up-to-date regarding evolving mandates and standards sure to follow.
“In recent weeks what we have anticipated is the need for all clients are probably struggling with a lot of the same challenges, strategically, operationally and legally for planning to reopen,” said Akerman partner and Return to Work team leader Beth Alcalde.
In response, Akerman launched a client-facing web portal containing policies, questionnaires, procedures and other documents to transition workers back to work.
To be sure, some law firms were previously leveraging technology to address COVID-19′s business impact as travel bans and stay-at-home mandates were first issued. At the time, some questioned if the client-facing portals were extremely useful or more so marketing tools.
But Elizabeth Espín Stern, a Mayer Brown partner and member of the firm’s COVID-19 global response team, said technology is a useful tool for easily sharing with clients the restrictions of a lifted shutdown and how the mandate impacts their industry.
Mayer Brown previously released Global Traveler Navigator to track travel shutdowns issued by various governments to stem coronavirus spread, and other web tools to assist clients.
The firm followed up Global Traveler Navigator with April’s Global Stimulus Navigator, an analysis of major governments’ economic stimulus measures, and Back to Business Navigator, an interactive map that illustrates how restrictive state and countywide measures are for specific industries.
Stern noted the Back to Business Navigator was needed to deliver reliable, consistent and “easy-to-digest information to clients, because they were starting to look at multitude of issues.”
She also said the firm views governments’ reopening mandates as announcements that can be easily revoked if COVID-19 begins to spread in their jurisdiction. As such, a tech platform is a useful tool to keep clients updated as requirements are likely to quickly change.
Kimball Parker, president of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati’s software developer subsidiary SixFifty, agreed shutdown lifts are evolving rapidly and noted they can also be expensive for companies to understand.
“A company could spend tens of thousands of dollars on an assessment and within a week the policy could be out of date and the assessment is moot based on developments,” Parker said. “This is not a situation catered to a static document, and with technology you can update things and blast it to a bunch of users that makes so much sense in this situation.”
While SixFifty released two web-based tools to assist companies working during shutdowns, Parker noted the company also recently developed automated assessments and policies for companies bringing employees back to work. Those documents include a return-to-work assessment and policy; a daily employee ready-and-willing to return to work survey; and a daily employee questionnaire to ensure contagious individuals don’t come to work.
Though SixFifty leveraged technology and WIlson Sonsini employment lawyers’ expertise to develop automated assessments and policies, Parker noted COVID-19 is an unprecedented event that no company or its lawyers can compare to.
“This has never happened before, and so what that means is the attorney has to generate that document from scratch and that dramatically increases the cost as opposed to working from a template. That makes it really expensive,” he said.
Reprinted with permission from the May 26, 2020 edition of Legaltech News © 2020 ALM Properties, Inc. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited.