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11 December 2020

GCs more optimistic about business prospects amid vaccine hopes, study finds

Morrison & Foerster survey also shows that GCs are worried about increased cyber threats

By Ben Edwards

Closeup hand of woman doctor or scientist in PPE suite uniform wearing face mask protective in lab hold medicine liquid vaccine vial bottle and syringe

By Sorapop Udomsri; Shutterstock

Global general counsel are more optimistic about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as the possibility of viable vaccines on the horizon lifts corporate spirits, according to a new survey by Morrison & Foerster.

The Covid-19 Impact Survey: Road to Recovery – the firm’s third report on the topic this year – found that while many of the issues that have concerned GCs over the past nine months still persist, there is growing hope that those vaccine breakthroughs will help companies return to normal.

David Newman, Morrison & Foerster’s Covid-19 task force chair and global risk and crisis management partner, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has devastated many industries and continues to have a profound impact on companies worldwide. Most companies are still not out of the woods, but the findings in this report indicate a majority of businesses are at least more optimistic about the road to recovery than before.”

Some 56% of GCs believe that more than half of their employees would need to be vaccinated for their company to return to normal, while only 15% reckon they could return to normal with fewer than 50% of employees vaccinated. Others were unsure about whether a return to normal hinged on the availability of a vaccine, while some questioned whether companies would be able to require that their employees are vaccinated.

Janie Schulman, employment and labour partner at Morrison & Foerster, said: “With one or more vaccines on the verge of being approved, some employers will undoubtedly mandate employee vaccines, either for altruistic reasons – they don’t want people to get sick at their place of business – or because they are worried about liability for workplace exposure to Covid-19.”

Other risks that are keeping GCs preoccupied include data security, which has risen to the second highest legal risk for companies. The pandemic has emboldened cyber criminals, particularly around the use of ransomware, said Morrison & Foerster global privacy and data security co-chair and partner Miriam Wugmeister. 

“Every business is a potential target because every company has some type of data – personal information, trade secrets, confidential customer information – and thus every business should take steps to bolster their cybersecurity programmes,” she said.

Morrison & Foerster surveyed 80 in-house legal professionals around the globe with revenues ranging from less than $250m up to more than $20bn. 

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