The coronavirus pandemic has upended company operations, requiring organizations to rapidly adjust or fall further behind, said a panel of legal experts at Bloomberg Law’s virtual In-House Forum, “Leading Corporate Legal Departments in Times of Crisis.”
Flexibility and effective crisis management requires maintaining a Rolodex of strategic contacts in advance to minimize disruption.
“You can’t make a friend when you need a friend – having relationships that preexist the crisis is essential,” said Harvey Anderson, general counsel at HP.
[For more news, insights, and guidance related to the coronavirus pandemic, visit Essential Covid-19 Resources for Attorneys.]
The importance of relationships was the focal point of discussion during the forum’s first day. Legal experts from industry and government assessed how the pandemic has affected supply chains, as well as deepened worker and corporate ethical considerations. In navigating these issues, “true” relationships eclipse the limitations of contracts when supplies run low, experts said.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the contracts say, you can’t get blood from a stone,” said Sonja Rajki, deputy general counsel of The MetroHealth System, a northeast Ohio public health care system, in a panel discussion moderated by Bloomberg Law’s transactions team lead, Diane Holt.
When supply networks are jeopardized, Rajki added, companies must “get creative.”
Creativity may require thinking “outside of any contract,” said Christina Zabat-Fran, global vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for St. John Knits.
“We’ve been in a retail apocalypse for some time, and Covid certainly escalated things,” said Zabat-Fran, speaking of the entire industry. For the clothing company, minimizing the disruption required close collaboration “with our partners throughout the entire chain – manufacturing, distribution, retail, wholesale – to figure out something [else] that would work,” Zabat-Fran said.