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COVID-19 and Managing Law Department Members

Before social distancing became a meme, largish law departments would periodically hold town halls. At a town hall, the general counsel typically sat with as many members of the law department, or at least of the lawyers, as could fit in a large conference room or auditorium and answered questions from the participants.  Town halls were meant to be a direct link to a GC, unmediated and unprepped.  Those who could not make the session in person could dial-in to listen and also to ask questions. The idea was to allow people to ask about their concerns and what they didn’t understand and hear candid, immediate responses from their leader.

During the pandemic, a general counsel can conduct a virtual town hall.  Everyone can dial-in on a zoom-like software and hear what is said, submit questions by chat, or ask them out loud.  People can once again share in the town hall’s transparency.  Software that can handle such an event may be able to anonymize questions so that they do not disclose the name of the person asking it.  Or, questions may have to be filtered through an HR representative or someone else.

It takes coordination with IT to pull off a virtual town hall. And, some or many members of the department may remain silent. That does not mean they are not interested.  If they have a confidential way of raising what’s on their mind, either before the session or doing during it, they may be more inclined to take part in a virtual town hall.  The arrangement puts pressure on a general counsel to respond to whatever comes up. Some may not wish to have that stress.

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