Never waste a crisis — a recap on Crafty Counsel’s COVID-19

Ben White, CEO, Crafty Counsel

Before COVID-19, every single video we had published on Crafty Counsel had been created by our film-makers in studio conditions. I’d shied away from filming anything remotely, because it seemed to me that our production values were part of our signature. We needed to look fabulous. Special. We couldn’t create content unless we were all in the same place. COVID-19 forced me to look again at that assumption, as with so many other things.

One of our first fully-remote series was our COVID-19 Teach-Ins. We went out to our community and asked, “what do you believe lawyers should be thinking about at this time?” It was a deliberately broad question, and elicited correspondingly broad answers.

Nir Golan is an experienced Tech General Counsel based in Tel Aviv. Anyone who knows Nir will tell you that he has a very generous spirit and is serious about helping others in the legal community — while being very direct on topics close to his heart! I’d wanted to interview Nir for ages, but my pre-lockdown insistence on filming in-person was one of the things that had prevented that from happening. With a Zoom interview, we could go direct to Nir in Israel.

Channeling the views of in-house lawyers globally, Nir implored law firm peers to stop writing client briefings, show some empathy and check in with their clients. If I could show you my inbox… All these force majeure memos… it doesn’t really help, it just does the opposite.

For Ian White, his concern was with General Counsel and Company Secretaries switching to running board meetings remotely for the first time. As a board evaluator and corporate governance consultant, Ian could see the practical pressures piling up — the Chairman using Zoom for the first time, the NEDs without serviceable wifi. But, Ian also saw lockdown as an opportunity — to slim down board papers, to focus the mind of directors on the essentials, and for internal lawyers to be perceived as oases of calm.

Running remote meetings in the best possible way a theme also picked up by Tom Lavin from White & Case — in his case, focusing on client meetings and even negotiations.

Rosie Burbidge is an Intellectual Property partner at gunnercooke, and published author on the intersection of the fashion industry and law. Rosie’s advice was that, with company budgets likely to come under strain, now was a great time for corporate legal teams to think about the value they might unlock from their intellectual property portfolio. What registered IP was sitting unexploited and might be licensed out? Was there IP which could be protected in a more cost-efficient way? And — why was a pandemic the time to worry about counterfeiting?

Many people have seen lockdown as an opportunity to take stock — Denis Potemkin (Founder of Majoto) and Graeme Johnston (ex HSF partner and Founder of Juralio) did that by sharing a mini campaign on the power of simplicity in legal contracts and processes. They asked lawyers to invest time in working out how to do less, but better.

Learning and Development expert Nicola Jones focused on the people. How does your behaviour change under stress? How is your team’s behaviour likely to change? With teams suddenly moved to remote working, this was the moment to anticipate unexpected reactions.

And, finally, Robert Hanna of Augusta Ventures did a rapid-fire question and answer with me on litigation funding — with now being the time when many companies would be preparing for disputes and how to finance them.

So, those were our presenters messages for the legal community to think about during lockdown. And, what about us at Crafty Counsel?

Since March, we’ve published 92 videos on our platform. Other than those filmed before lockdown conditions began, all were filmed remotely — either via Zoom interview, or via mobile phone.

Remote filming definitely has its drawbacks — but one positive has been that we can move quickly and film people from all over the world reacting to events in real time. I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing these perspectives!