Legal departments need to look inward and find ways to stay connected during a crisis, like the new coronavirus, for business continuity and to create efficiencies in the future.
“Business continuity is not a supply chain only issue. It affects legal departments, finance departments and HR. You don’t need to be in manufacturing to be hit with some disruptive event,” Suzanne Miller, director and managing counsel of worldwide sales and revenue at HP Inc. in Roseville, California, said in a webinar hosted by LawGeex on Wednesday.
Throughout the presentation, she identified key lessons learned over crises the company has had to contend with during the last five years. Those crises, she said, have made the HP legal department “anti-fragile.”
She said the first crisis she faced was in 2015 when Hewlett-Packard split, which is when HP first came to be. Faced with an outlook that PCs and printers were not profitable, the legal department looked inward and asked: “What is the single point of failure in this legal team?”
That question is a great starting point during the crisis. She explained it helps to identify shortcomings.
“As we found ourselves faced with different crises along the way, we continued to lean in and continued to refine our model and improve our business continuity,” Miller said.
Facing budget cuts in 2016, Miller said the legal department began to look at the work it was doing and identified what important work had a low legal risk and could be done in another more efficient way. Now, the legal department at HP calls it the “four-box framework” and as work can become automated or handled by a different function it changes position in the box.
“We plot out a quadrant against legal risk and value to the company. We get clear information on where we are addressing high legal risk and where we are providing value back to the company,” Miller explained.
That exercise, Miller said, is done every year.
Staying in Touch
Making sure all parts of the business have access to an attorney is critical for business continuity during a crisis, Miller said. She said during hurricanes Harvey and Maria, the business became disrupted in Houston and Puerto Rico. However, because they were able to stay in contact, the legal department was able to help with business operations.
Miller explained the legal department has a spreadsheet with everyone’s name, cellphone number and a backup way to maintain contact.
“Think through your worst-case scenario and make sure you can find your clients and they can find you,” Miller said. “Making sure that you and your clients can connect will just mean that is less time that people will be running around.”
Further, at HP, each business unit has a crisis management program that has an attorney attached to it who has decision-making authority.
“When we have a disruptive event, we already have an infrastructure of decision-makers. Legal is already a part of it and supportive of it,” Miller said.