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Preparing for a Storm: Crisis Management Checklist for In-House Counsel

March 15, 2022

A common refrain cited by public relations veterans is that there are only two types of companies: those that are in a storm right now and those that are heading for one. But you can have more confidence in your organization’s ability to weather a storm if you have done the right advance planning and have the right navigation tools in your hands to help steer the ship.

Of course, there are a wide variety of potential crises that your company might confront, depending on your industry and type of business. Examples of a potential storm that might be brewing in front of your organization today include:

“When crises do arise, they encompass a range of the GC’s skill set and mandate — the role of risk management, interaction with the c-suite, and the intersection of legal and compliance,” GC Magazine reports. “All are essential elements of what it means to be a lawyer in today’s business environment, but they also represent a host of unique challenges for the GC.”

And while some corporate legal professionals would argue that in-house counsel must deal with a “perpetual state of crisis,” according to Law360, the reality is that some specific kinds of unforeseen events can have a significant negative impact on an organization at any time.

In the event of a crisis, it’s likely that your company will be under greater public scrutiny than normal. There may be legal or regulatory implications to consider as well. As the company’s legal representative, you should be involved in contingency planning for the next crisis and be forearmed with an action plan so that your response to the developing event can be faster and more decisive.

Here is a crisis checklist for in-house counsel, extracted from a practice note published on Lexis+ General Counsel Suite:

Planning for potential disasters

What could go wrong? Do you know how you'd respond? Do you have access to information (contact details for key personnel, for example) in a disaster situation?

Identifying a crisis

What has happened? What's the likely impact on your business? What are the financial repercussions? Is this serious enough to warrant specialist communications support?

Forming the crisis team

Who's involved? What are their skills? What are their roles in the team? Who has been media trained?

Putting together a mission statement for the team

What's the crisis team trying to achieve? What are the obstacles? What are the top two or three messages you need to get across?

Monitoring the situation

Who is doing this? Are you monitoring social media, such as Twitter, as well as the press?

Identifying your audiences

Who do you need to talk to? What is the impact of the situation on them? How will you reach them?

Planning your messages

What are you trying to communicate? How is this different for each of your audiences?

Drafting your messages

Is your language simple and easy to understand? Have you checked your legal position? Are you being open and honest?

Briefing employees outside the crisis team

What's your message to them? Have you given them guidelines on how to talk to people outside the company? Have you given them guidelines on talking about the situation on social media?

Post-crisis assessment

What have you learned? What did you do well? What would you have done differently? How can you prevent this situation arising again?

Effective management of a crisis can make the difference between a quick recovery or a devastating blow.

Some storms that await your company will come with a degree of warning, other storms will come upon you out of nowhere. The key is to be as prepared as possible with an action plan to guide you through the storm and to calmer waters ahead.

In-house counsel are in a crucial position to lead a company’s crisis management response. This requires access to information tools and actionable insights that can help guide your strategic planning and tactical execution.

Lexis® General Counsel Suite provides in-house counsel with a vast collection of legal resources, breaking business and legal news, and practical guidance content that includes practice notes, templates and checklists. Learn more about how General Counsel Suite helps you manage today and anticipate tomorrow by signing up for a free trial.