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16 March 2020

Staff welfare, supply chain and privacy: the coronavirus-related issues keeping GCs awake at night

Linklaters, Baker McKenzie and Ropes & Gray have published the most sought-after briefings, according to Lexology

By John Malpas

A word cloud of most popular topics

Word cloud: the topics most catching the attention of general counsel Lexology

Force majeure, supply chains, the legality of staff health checks and privacy are among the coronavirus-related legal issues keeping general counsel awake at night, according to an analysis of the most popular briefings on Lexology.

Data supplied by Lexology confirms a huge growth in the number of legal updates being published by law firms with the most-popular briefings to date having been supplied by Linklaters, Baker McKenzie and Ropes & Gray (see listing below).

In the first week of February, eight articles on the virus were published on the platform, rising to 88 in the final week of the month. 

By 11 March — the day the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic — 454 briefings had already been published since the start of the month, more than twice the 218 tally for February.

The most popular work areas and content tags suggest key preoccupations for general counsel are the impact of the coronavirus on company workforces, including the law relating to staff health checks, and its impact on the supply chain and the enforceability of contracts generally under the concept of force majeure.

The top three work areas are: employment and labour; company and commercial; and healthcare and life sciences.

And the top ten tags not including ‘coronavirus’ are (see word cloud): force majeure, The World Health Organisation, The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), supply chain, personal data, GDPR, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and general contractor.

An FAQ guide for clients by Ropes & Gray — the third-most popular briefing to date — covered areas including: action to take if an employee shows symptoms; privacy law issues in relation to the collection of data about the spread of Covid-19; business continuity plans including the potential loss of services, supplies an products; insurance cover; and: ‘What can a company do if it has a product that could aid in the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19?’

Umair Rahim, legal editor at Lexology PRO, said: “Since the global outbreak of Covid-19, Lexology subscribers have been particularly interested in the impact on businesses including governance issues, preventative measures and top tips for employers as well as the implications on contractual relationships.”

A spokesman at Baker McKenzie — which published the second-most popular briefing (see below) — added: “Businesses are facing weakened financial markets, as well as disruption to workplace operations and business pipelines due to restrictions to the mobility of people and goods. We are helping clients understand, prepare and respond quickly to these significant challenges, including immigration issues, employment protection and other employment best practices.”

The firm is among several which have created a dedicated online resource centre for Covid-19 briefings.

The six most-read briefings (up to 11 March)

Novel coronavirus: Practice guide of significant commercial and legal issues - Linklaters

Coronavirus: A Quick Guide for Employers in EMEA – Baker McKenzie

COVID-19 FAQs – Ropes & Gray

Legal consequences of coronavirus outbreak on contracts: force majeure and frustration - Corrs Chambers Westgarth

COVID-19: Force Majeure under PRC, HK SAR and English law – King & Wood Mallesons

Steps Companies Should Take to Protect Themselves from the Legal Fallout of the Coronavirus – Jones Day

Further reading:

'I have realised how powerful technology now is': an Italian lawyer's take on Covid-19

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