Legal team leaders must ensure they are effectively balancing the needs of their teams together with the broader business in the wake of COVID-19.
Last week on The Corporate Counsel Show, Carsales Ltd general counsel and company secretary Nicole Birman spoke about the importance of effectively managing the health and wellbeing of the legal department during the global coronavirus pandemic, whilst also ensuring that department can support the broader business in a meaningful fashion during such a crisis, by way of timely advice on changing government advice.
When asked how best the GC could ensure that the right balance is struck between those two tasks, Ms Birman said that when it comes to navigating the volume of information emanating from the government and health officials, all professionals may find it challenging to successfully manage that.
“Fortunately, at Carsales, we’ve got a fantastic people and culture team who are on top of all of that, and a finance team who we can work with together to look at the announcements coming out and interpret their applicability to our business and how we’ll handle that,” she said.
“So, I view my role in that context as a support system and as somebody who is used to reading and interpreting legislation, then assisting those teams in particular to unpack what has been said by the government.”
On top of providing that function for the broader business, it can be “tricky”, Ms Birman noted, to then dedicate sufficient time to the legal team’s needs and support them properly – as a result, meaningful dialogue is key, she said.
“I’ve really tried to focus on communication and knowing at this uncertain time, when decisions are being made quickly and in a landscape that is changing day-by-day or at best week-by-week, I’m aware that in that environment it can be really difficult to effectively communicate,” she outlined.
“So it’s incumbent on GCs and other leaders to remember that the team [is] craving information and to make an effort to deliver it the best you can in the circumstances, and ensure that the team’s understanding their part in supporting the business and where you’re spending your time, if you’re not as available to them as you’d like to be.
“I’m very fortunate that my team is really respectful of my time and understanding of all the other things on my plate, but I feel that conflict that I should be spending more time with them.”
On the upside, Ms Birman pointed out, the pandemic is “actually a great opportunity for team members to step up”, and she is “personally really grateful” that her team is making every effort to support her and the business at this time.
Moreover, those legal team members will become more adaptable moving forward, she added.
“I think that, as human beings, we’re very elastic and we’re quick to go back to how things were and have that level of comfort. But I do think that this period has allowed people to explore how productive they can work remotely, whether that’s from home or from another location,” Ms Birman reflected.
“There will be changes in that respect of teams being a little more open to perhaps working with remote team members and people not feeling the need to go into the office five days a week.”
To listen to the full conversation with Nicole Birman, click below: