No matter what industry you’re in, there’s no doubt that COVID-19 is changing both the way work gets done and how workers spend their time in the legal sphere — especially in the contract management arena. The pandemic has impacted the global economy, our healthcare systems, insurance claims, the prevalence of remote work and more.
Lawyers are busier than ever in this “new normal;” however, the kinds of legal contract reviews they are conducting are shifting.
Here are five practice areas that are becoming even more relevant in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Recent headlines have been filled with news of Chapter 11 bankruptcies, including J.C. Penney, Neiman Marcus, J. Crew, 24 Hour Fitness and many more. According to Epiq Systems Inc., Chapter 11 business bankruptcy filings increased 26% in the first half of this year, and U.S. courts recorded a total of 3,604 business filings for Chapter 11 protection, an unfortunate side effect of the pandemic. Lawyers are doing more work with debtors, creditors, equity interest holders and other entities that may be interested in a business (such as a prospective acquirer) that is confronting financial difficulties.
This varied area of legal practice encompasses a range of transactional and regulatory matters, including mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures for healthcare entities. Other work may include litigation concerning healthcare clients, enforcing governmental health and FDA regulations, conducting internal investigations and assisting with technology transactions, IP and data privacy. Digital health practices are constantly changing, and lawyers are keeping pace with the many legal changes that accompany the technological advances and regulatory updates the healthcare industry is experiencing during this pandemic and beyond.
While the safety of employees and customers is on the forefront of company’s minds, mitigating financial losses that have come with COVID-19 so that they can continue to operate is another huge priority. Risk managers, in-house counsel and internal crisis management teams continue to pore over their insurance policies (i.e., first-party property insurance, cancellation insurance, etc.) to determine whether there is existing coverage to offset losses and liabilities. Legal teams are pulled into the mix when litigation is needed to resolve a dispute over coverage terms.
Lawyers in the employment arena represent companies or individuals in labor and employment disputes, draft policies and procedures, advise on union issues including unfair labor practice and discrimination charges, review employment and separation contracts, etc. Legal topics that are coming up more than ever before as the world grapples with coronavirus include issues of confidentiality, disability-related inquiries, health coverage, paid sick leave, reduction in force and more.
Privacy and Data Security
This certainly isn’t a new area of law; the 2018 introduction of the GDPR in the European Union has affected the way companies do business globally. As both private companies and governments explore different ways to combat and prevent the spread of COVID-19, data collection and analysis of health and location information have become key tools. However, there is a balance that must be maintained between personal privacy rights and public well-being, a prime subject of newly proposed federal privacy legislation. While this legislation is being drafted, companies are taking steps to ensure that they are minimizing the collection of employee data to only what is reasonably necessary as well as utilize cybersecurity solutions to protect their employee and client data
Artificial Intelligence and Contract Management
As the M&A work, insurance disputes, employee settlements, new privacy policies, etc., pile up on lawyers’ desks, there is more pressure than ever before to be efficient and mitigate risk to the company.
ReviewAI is a Microsoft Word Add-in that enables lawyers to be 51.5% more productive. This contract management system provides more consistency in the contract review process by alerting the user when language and legal clauses don’t match corporate standards. Users can also leverage any of our immediately available contract review templates created by subject matter experts in areas such as employment, dispute settlement, confidentiality, data privacy and more. Learn how ReviewAI can transform your contract management lifecycle here.