Covid-19 revealed the strengths and weaknesses in every organisation’s approach to crisis management. Given the number of crises over the last two decades, those with strategic responsibility – in-house legal, risk and compliance departments – must look ahead and consider the long-term lessons to enhance their organisation’s legal risk resilience.

What can General Counsel, legal risk and compliance leaders learn from the Covid-19 pandemic and other notable crises of the past 20 years to strengthen the legal resilience of their organisations?

On 24 November, 2020, Justin Steer presented on this topic as part of General Counsel NL’s Peer-To-Peer International General Counsel Group. A group discussion followed his presentation, during which GCs had the opportunity to participate in an open discussion on the lessons learned thus far in dealing with COVID-19, what she or he might have done differently and how these could help GCs prepare for future crises.

By recognising the legal risks common to many crises, leaders in strategic roles can prepare for and mitigate the impact of those risks before the next crisis.

In our analysis of crises to date, both contractual relationships and regulatory compliance came to the forefront. Historic crises have also taught us that the main areas that deserve attention are: managing legislative change; adapting compliance mechanisms to respond to new challenges created by the crisis; and managing relationships with regulators.

However, these lessons must be overlaid by a consideration of whether acting strictly in accordance with legal rights is impractical or, indeed, inappropriate. This is not an entirely new phenomenon, but the focus on ‘doing the right thing’ has been particularly prevalent in the Covid-19 crisis and it is likely to continue to be an important consideration in any future crisis response, sitting alongside the strict legal (or commercial) analysis in informing your approach.

Sometimes in a crisis, you will be forced to make decisions quickly based on imperfect and changing information. You may have to improvise. The more prepared you can be in advance of the crisis, and the better you understand your risks and exposures, the more likely it is that you will be able to prioritise the right things and make the right decisions when it matters.

Click here to read our perspectives on legal agility and risk resilience.

About the authors:


Justin Steer                                                                              Arnold Croiset van Uchelen
Corporate Partner Allen & Overy Amsterdam                            Senior Ligitation Partner Allen & Overy Amsterdam
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