Business continuity plans for law firms and corporate governance professionals in a time of global crisis

Whether it’s been countries closing their borders, ordering lockdowns of their citizens, or building fully functioning hospitals in a matter of weeks, it’s safe to say that the past two months have been slightly surreal.  

For businesses – including law firms and in-house legal teams specializing in legal entity management – the global COVID-19 pandemic has presented a real challenge as they’ve had to quickly adapt to new ways of working, with many employees now based from home for the foreseeable future.   

Why in-house legal teams and law firms need a business continuity plan

Those organizations that had business continuity plans based around the need for cloud-based technology are now breathing a sigh of relief as they experience minimal disruption to their business. 

However, not every company has made the move to the cloud. Many paralegals and in-house legal operations teams are still relying on legal entity management systems that can only be accessed in an office environment, meaning they are having to ignore government advice to stay at home. 

In one case, this has led to a union writing an open letter to employers of the legal sector demanding they “prioritize the wellbeing of employees” during the Coronavirus pandemic. In it, they highlight the need for employees to be given the option of accessing databases and software from their homes, and where that isn’t possible for them to be sent home on full pay. 

From a business continuity perspective, the first option is by far the more desirable as, regardless of what’s happening in the outside world, global regulators won’t let you off the hook for a late filing. And reputationally, legal business leaders need to be putting employees’ wellbeing at the heart of their decision making, not to mention that seriously sick employees won’t be very productive. 

However, for many in-house legal teams this simply isn’t an option right now. And that’s why a well-thought out business continuity plan is critical to prevent interruptions to business. 

CLOC (the Corporate Legal Operations Consortium) recommends that all in-house legal operational professionals have access to a business continuity plan as its absence makes it much harder to adapt successfully in times of crisis, especially when it comes to accessing systems and platforms remotely. Moving legal entity management systems into the cloud simply can’t be done overnight – it’s essential you have it in place before the crisis happens. 

It’s also worth noting that business continuity isn’t just about crisis; it’s also about looking ahead and understanding how the world is changing and where your organization does or doesn’t fit into that. Access to technology wherever you are in the world will soon be considered a necessity rather than a luxury.  

Where we work is changing - whether we like it or not

Technology has revolutionized the way we work, yet until this year it hadn’t hugely changed where we worked. The last US census found that just 5.2% of employees worked at home in 2017 (about eight million people) but that it was a trend that was slowly gaining traction – something the Coronavirus has now accelerated. 

Over the past two months we’ve witnessed global change on an unprecedented scale as the vast majority of employees around the world are suddenly working from home. 

However, many companies have had to make the difficult choice to either furlough or lay off their employees to ensure their businesses survive (in the last week of March, a record 6.64 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits). But for those working in legal entity management, that isn’t necessarily an option when regulation and legislation mean that work can’t be put on hold indefinitely while we weather the storm. 

And even if this storm turns out to be relatively short, it would be a mistake to think that it’s a once in a lifetime situation unlikely to happen again, and that everything will just return to normal after. Many are predicting that “Covid-19 could permanently shift working patterns as companies forced to embrace remote working by the pandemic find that their employees do not want to return to the office once the closures are lifted”.

Employees will soon expect choice in where they work, something that will only be exacerbated as the next digital-native generation enters the workplace. Companies that don’t offer that choice by providing remote access to key platforms and information may struggle to keep employees and attract new talent – a key factor in any in-house legal term or law firm business continuity plan. 

Making legal entity management a remote role

Let’s quickly clarify what we mean by legal entity management and remote working. 

Put simply, legal entity management is a governance system for compiling and controlling the corporate records of a company, which can include directors and officers, ownership structures, tax strategies, corporate names and mergers and acquisitions.

Entity management software basically keeps everything in one place, making it easier to manage compliance in line with legislation and changing regulations. Historically, this type of software has been hosted on in-house servers, but more and more organizations are making the move to the cloud – a wise move in light of the current situation.   

Remote working means employees having the ability to work away from the traditional office environment, whether that’s from home, shared office spaces or even a coffee shop – basically anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection (however, we wouldn’t recommend a coffee shop when working on sensitive client information!). 

How cloud-based solutions can help

The current pandemic will undoubtedly be a wake-up call for many organizations – especially those who hadn’t readied workers for remote access. While you can’t predict every eventuality, you can ensure operational efficiency and especially remote access. The latter will go a long way to future-proofing your business, keeping and attracting talent, and providing much needed reassurance to your clients.  

Cloud-based entity management and legal operations software not only provides employees with flexibility about where they work but it also provides an essential contingency for your organization during a time of crisis. It enables you to get the right information to the right people at the right time, regardless of where they are in the world or what time it is.

In future, clients will be asking for reassurance that business continuity plans account for unforeseen circumstances like the Covid-19 pandemic; being able to guarantee that business will continue with no disruption is a huge selling point. 

Unlike other legal entity management systems, Athennian’s proposition is built entirely in the cloud and stores all of your data in one easily accessible place, which means that whatever else is going on in the world, and wherever your employees are, your business can carry on. 

We’ve developed the platform in collaboration with paralegals and in-house legal operations teams to ensure it’s easy to use and has all the capabilities you need to do your job. It also integrates with all your existing platforms such as Office 365 and Google and can be customized to your needs. 

Another big benefit, especially during a crisis, is that it allows teams to collaborate within the platform itself meaning they no longer need to be in the same office to work effectively. 

Is data stored in the cloud secure? 

But the question of security will always raise its head. It’s a common concern for paralegals and in-house legal operations teams as the information you handle is highly confidential and cybersecurity breaches present a huge risk that needs to be managed carefully. 

It’s tempting to think that servers you can physically keep your eye on in the office are more secure. However, this doesn’t account for its vulnerability to fire and theft, not to mention that research from Harvard Business Review found that 60% of all cyber-attacks are conducted by insiders. Your data is far safer in an off-site location where the sole purpose is to keep it safe.    

Athennian’s legal entity management system is hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) – one of the most secure computing infrastructures in the world, not to mention the market leader. 

The infrastructure has met a host of audit and security standards including SOC 1, SOC 2, PCI-DSS and EU-US Privacy Shield framework. In addition, our security and risk management processes have been modelled on the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and SOC Type II series of standards.

The future of work is in the cloud

Not only are cloud-based solutions secure but they are integral to the future of work. The world around us is changing and organizations need to adapt to stay relevant and to support their clients in the most effective and responsive way. 

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to be prepared for all eventualities to ensure businesses don’t just survive but thrive. Cloud-based technology solutions can enhance your business and provide peace of mind to you and your clients – plus we can work with you to customize our platforms so that your business is perfectly positioned to respond to whatever the future may hold.

Book a demo now to discover how Athennian’s cloud-based entity management and legal operations software can support your business every day, ensuring you’re ready for whatever the future might bring.  

About Athennian is the top reviewed legal entity management cloud platform for law firms and in-house corporate teams. Athennian is used by innovative organizations that value modern software with elegant automation and workflows. Integrating entity data management, document assembly, eSign, org charts, and e-file, Athennian is selected by leading law firms and corporate legal and tax teams to scale legal entity governance. Athennian offers rapid migration services for customers from any legacy database including ALF, CorpLink, EnAct, GlobalAct, EnGlobe, FastCompany, Corporate Focus, Blueprint (Diligent Entities), GEMS, hCue, Effacts and more.

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"Very easy to use, modern interface, excellent support. Athennian has an amazing conversion team. They helped us migrate all of our data and the training was very good."

Megan W, Director

“When we were reviewing other entity management systems on the market, in some cases, we were not comparing apples to apples. But with Athennian, there was really no comparison. The paralegals were so excited to come on board.”

Linda Escobar, Senior Paralegal

"There are so many things I like about this program, but the one thing that really stands out is the user friendly interface. The program is fast and allows me to enter corporate information very quickly and efficiently. I would also like to note that Athennian provides the most the fantastic customer service."

Kelly R, Corporate Law Clerk