Taylor Root reached out to its global network to explore the initial challenges faced by businesses and the impact on legal functions during the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Jasprit Sahnsi, Group Deputy General Counsel at Selecta
Has this Covid-19 climate changed the way you use and interact with external counsel?
The Covid-19 climate has had an impact on the global economy and every business is affected in one way or another, ours is certainly one of them. There has been additional pressure to reduce our spend and only use where specifically necessary. As a result, we have had to be very mindful of our use of external counsel, which in practice meant that our use of external counsel is limited for specialised matters where we do not have the in-house expertise.
We have a policy in place whereby any external counsel spend must be approved in advance by the in-house function. This has helped the legal function gauge early on whether external counsel is required for the relevant matters thus enabling strict cost control at this critical time.
We are very fortunate in that we have very strong relationships with our chosen law firm providers who have been able to provide complimentary advice on the impacts of implementing the various governmental initiatives and how their other clients have responded. These law firms have seen this as an investment in their relationship with their clients which has been invaluable.
Has the pandemic changed your company’s attitude to the legal function?
I believe the legal function is always valued by the business, however, during the pandemic, I felt we really became the “best friends” of certain functions. Overnight, the demand for our time as lawyers soared and we were in back-to-back meetings throughout the day. We certainly had to become more versatile in our approach in any given topic and also think on our feet about non-legal issues. Our colleagues in other functions have many urgent requests that have a real impact on our businesses and there is pressure to ensure we deliver the most succinct and practical advice that can be used in commercial discussions. The strength that we, as lawyers have, is thinking logically, weighing the risks and opportunities and presenting a commercial solution. All of this has all played in our favour as we have been asked to have a seat at the table and our advice is highly valued.
Have you been able to demonstrate the value of legal and your role Deputy GC during a crisis?
Absolutely! Businesses need solution orientated lawyers that can provide advice on the law, but also strategise on how risks can be minimised during this unprecedented period. I believe the legal function is no longer that of the gate keepers but the influencers that help shape our company’s future and are under the spotlight to shine as a true business leader. I am very blessed to work with great business leaders who value the support and advice of the legal function. There has been some great work done by the Association of Corporate Counsel, who has been advocating for Lawyers to have Seat at the Table which is very relevant in these times. Further details can be found here at http://www.acc.com/governance.
What do you miss about being in the office?
Being a coffee provider, I certainly miss the onsite Starbucks coffee machine!