We have made it to 2021. Vaccinations bring hope and a light at the end of this global-pandemic tunnel.
As a result of the pandemic, businesses are rapidly adapting and evolving their operations in new and different ways. Flexible work arrangements and virtual platforms became the norm and increased productivity, customer access, and work-life balance. Employees and consumers want to engage with businesses that prioritize safety, efficiency, personal relationships, and community-oriented values. Amid all of this, businesses must keep money coming in the door.
Now is the time to batten down the hatches: set your course for navigation, secure weak spots, and tighten the ship to survive not only the waning days of a global pandemic but also the fundamentally different ecosystem that will follow.
Over the course of the following weeks, we will explore and highlight legal strategies to help businesses reduce risk, prevent loss and future expense, avoid litigation, and stay on mission.
Crisis plan. Crisis can strike anytime, anywhere. Global pandemics, civil unrest, hurricanes, floods, devastating accidents, power outages, cyber-attacks—the list is endless. In times of crisis, your company’s leadership team has the responsibility to make critical decisions about the company’s future under extreme stress and often, without all the facts. Having a formal, written, and tested crisis plan will equip your company with the tools needed to survive a crisis.
Data security. The seismic shift to work-at-home and remote services means companies are aggressively expanding their technological platform. All organizations have more digital data about their customers, employees, finances, confidential business information, and intellectual property. Cyberattacks and improper handling of this data can hurt a company’s bottom line and reputation. Responding to data breaches is expensive. Failing to protect sensitive data—especially consumer information—can violate ever-expanding privacy laws and threaten consumer confidence. Businesses must adopt legally compliant and realistically effective strategies to protect data from intrusion, theft, and mishandling.
Information preservation. The shift to data- and cloud-driven business increases the amount of information to track, maintain, and destroy. When a business is involved in litigation, record-keeping becomes even more important. Having a practical and strategic preservation protocol is critical for both day-to-day operations and litigation success.
Protection of intellectual property (IP). IP can be your business’s lifeblood and drive strategic growth. Businesses must take steps to protect their IP—their names, logos, copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Risks to IP often come from unexpected corners: employees and contractors who help create systems or processes the employer owns; vendors with access; licensees; publishing companies. A structure and strategy for best practices can help a business protect some of its most important work.
Employee safety and relationships. The landscape for protecting employees and maintaining healthy employee relationships has broadened. Remote work, COVID-19 exposure, civil unrest, compensation requirements, and the expansion of employee engagement create an opportunity for businesses to revisit their employment policies and strategies. Simultaneously, businesses must implement policies and agreements to protect against unfair and unlawful competition and theft of confidential information.
Behavior and culture as risk management. We see it all the time: relationships and behavior lead to disputes that lead to litigation. Toxic workplace cultures bleed into the customer experience. Bad behavior inhibits companies from adapting to changing circumstances and developing their potential. Customers and investors demand a greater focus on access, diversity, equality, and inclusiveness in business composition and services. Businesses should develop internal standards for behavior and culture to create a healthy work environment that is conducive to success and allows businesses to better engage with their communities.
By addressing each of these topics, we hope to assist businesses in battening down their hatches so that they may survive and thrive in stormy weather.
Dempsey Foster is a socially conscious, women-owned business and litigation firm specializing in growth companies, nonprofits, and female entrepreneurs. We serve our clients through empathy, advanced strategy, and proven courtroom mettle. We are devoted to helping our community by serving on high-impact nonprofit boards, supporting legal access organizations, and providing pro bono representation to underserved members of our state.
Alyson Foster is a founding member of Dempsey Foster. A veteran litigator, Alyson helps her clients navigate business relationships through negotiating contracts, resolving matters in mediation, and litigating in arbitration and court. She lives in Boise with her park ranger husband and rescue dogs.
Jennifer Schrack Dempsey is a founding member of Dempsey Foster. Jennifer has served as business and litigation counsel to individual clients, small and medium businesses, and major corporations with equal passion and attention to detail. She lives in Boise with her husband and two teenagers. In a former life, she played NCAA Division I volleyball.