Episode 30: Sterling Miller on In-House Legal Teams Preparing for and Responding to Crises and Pandemics

Sterling Miller joins us on Episode 30 to discuss how in-house legal teams can help their companies respond to crisis situations and pandemics. Sterling is a three time general counsel (Travelocity, Sabre Corporation and Marketo) now with the Hilger Grabens law firm. He also writes a great blog, Ten Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel.

Sterling explains that during crises (like the current COVID-19 and Coronavirus pandemic), in-house lawyers should “run to the fire” and actively help their companies deal with difficult times. It is a good opportunity for legal departments to lead and show value to the organization. 

Learn more about Sterling.

 

Episode Credits

 

Editing and Production: Grant Blackstock

Theme Music: Home Base (Instrumental Version) by TA2MI

 

 

Episode Transcript

 

Chad:

I’m Chad Main, the founder of legal service provider, Percipient, and this is a pandemic edition of Technically Legal, a podcast about legal technology and innovation in the legal industry. Today’s episode, we talked to Sterling Miller. Sterling is a three-time general counsel. He served a GC for Travelocity, the Sabre Corporation, and most recent marketing automation company, Marketo. Sterling now works with the Hilgers Graben law firm. Sterling and I talked today about what legal departments can do to help their companies deal with crisis situations.

 

So this isn’t Sterling’s first rodeo with a crisis. When 9/11 hit, he was working in the Travelocity legal department and helped with the company’s response to the tragedy. I’ve been wanting to get Sterling on the podcast for a long time now for a few reasons, not the least of which is that he writes what I think is one of the best legal-related blogs out there, 10 Things You Need to Know as In-House Counsel. I highly encourage you to check out his blog, and I will put a link to it on the episode page at tlpodcast.com. In response to the COVID-19 situation, Sterling just wrote yet another great piece on what legal departments can do to help out in crisis and pandemic situations. So I reached out to him to get him on the podcast, and thankfully he graciously agreed to join us.

However, blogs aren’t the only thing that Sterling writes. So most people presumably are going to tune into this podcast because we’re going to offer some advice, some tips, some suggestions that legal teams can implement and think about during this kind of crisis, this time of crisis, but crisis in general. But what I don’t think people are going to expect is that we’ve got some bonus content because before we get into that nitty gritty, I wanted to talk to you about your book, The Slow Cooker Savant because we’re staying at home. People are staying at home. They got to cook. So this is a great book. I love the intro. You should buy it just for the intro alone, but you started writing this book because your daughter wanted you to write down recipes, right?

Sterling Miller:

That is correct. That is correct, yes. We have been using it. I have to say, over the last week we have used that book and the Slow Cooker probably three or four times already. So yes, it’s perfect for crisis situations like this. And that is exactly right. My daughter was graduating from college, and I had become, I guess, very adept at cooking with a slow cooker. And our daughters and my wife really enjoyed what I cooked, and she asked if I could put some of the recipes together. And I started doing that. And then I said, “Well, wow, I have enough for a book.” And I’ve never written a cookbook before. Just figured out how to do it, and it turned out actually to be incredibly popular, Chad. I’ve been very surprised at the reaction and emails and notes that I get from people about the book. And they do zero in on the introduction, the history of the slow cooker and my own history of cooking. So I found that to be a very pleasing, that people enjoyed it. And certainly the food. The recipes are all… Even if I’ll brag on myself… they’re all really good.

Chad:

And there’s 52, so if we’re in this shelter in place mode for a year, you got 52 recipes to choose from.

Sterling:

There’s one for every week, yes. Exactly right.

Chad:

Great. Where can people find the book? And by the way, I will put a link to the information about the book on the episode page for this. But where can people find it?

Sterling:

Oh, it’s on Amazon, Slow Cooker Savant. If you just put Sterling Miller slow cooker, it’ll pop up. I also have my own website, Sterling Miller Books. I will tell you that it’s easier to order it on Amazon like most things, so wherever you feel like going to get it, it’s widely available. Barnes and Noble has it as well. So there are other places, but you can easily find it.

Chad:

That’s great. I highly recommend it. I’m a proud owner. Recommend it. Good recipes. So topic at hand. I got this idea to get you on the podcast because you just wrote a great article on your blog, 10 Things, which is geared towards in-house counsel, but lawyers in general in every blog post you have 10 suggestions.

Sterling:

Yeah, it crosses over.

Chad:

Or 10 ideas that in-house attorneys, corporate attorneys, might want to think about. And you just wrote this one on how to deal with pandemics in crisis. The one thing I liked about it is you had an old colleague that always told you, “Let’s not let a good crisis go to waste.”

Sterling:

Well, if you’re an in-house lawyer, there’s always a question about what is the value that you bring? Why should we have this expensive group of lawyers internally? Can’t we get these same services outside? Couldn’t we scale it outside? And one thing that has consistently shown the value of the in-house legal team and the in-house lawyers is whenever there’s a crisis, if the legal team steps up, if the in-house lawyers step up, it’s almost instantaneous value because lawyers are so uniquely situated to deal with crises like this pandemic, like any crisis you can name. His thought was let’s not run away or stay underground. If there’s a crisis, if there’s a situation, that is our perfect opportunity to step up, to be leaders, to get recognized as a truly valuable part of the company. So that really was the Genesis of that.

Chad:

And that’s what you say too. Another part of the article, you say this is the time for lawyers and the legal department to really show their value because sometimes it’s very hard to show to the business people what the value of a legal department is rather than just being a cost center. But this is the time you run to the fire-

Sterling:

Yes.

Chad:

And show the leadership. What would you suggest there? How can an internal legal team show leadership and take the reins?

Sterling:

Right. The very first thing, in a crisis like this, the company may have a detailed crisis response plan. Most companies do, but there are a lot that don’t, specially smaller companies. So the first thing that has to happen is someone has to step up and get everyone organized, get the calls organized, the meetings organized, figure out who needs to attend, make sure that things are being assigned, that things are being followed up on. And it’s probably not a job you want the CEO to handle, though they’re probably capable, and certainly the CFO is capable, but again, is that really the highest and best use of your head of finance? The legal team, again, just because of our training and our skillset, organizing, running, making sure things get done, following up, that’s what we do every day. So a situation like this is just perfect for the legal team to raise its hand and say, “Hey, we’ll run this. We’ll be in charge.”

And generally what I have found over time is that people are looking for that. They want someone who will say, “I’ll run this. I’ll take care of this. I’ll be the one making sure it all gets done.’ And it’s kind of a sigh of relief because everyone’s happy to do their bit, but that overall leadership can feel really heavy on most people’s shoulders, and they’re very happy when lawyers step up and say, “We’ll run it.” And if there is someone who’s running it, then the next thing you would do is just be the best lieutenant that you can be. What can I do to help? What can I take off your plate? What can I take care of? What can I manage? Where can I help? Again, something that people are just internally grateful for when they hear someone say that versus in a lot of crises, in a lot of hard situations, people are kind of hunkered down. They’re dealing with their little area, but they’re not necessarily to looking to take on anything more. This is perfect for the legal team.

Chad:

And you say too that get involved, kind of take that leadership role, but you say legal should be in charge of keeping the written record of the company’s plans and response and also be very active in the communications.

Sterling:

Yes.

Chad:

How do you suggest keeping that written record? What are you referring to there?

Sterling:

So there are two things. Most crises situations, there are plans that are put into place. There are tasks that are assigned. There are reports that are generated. How are we doing? How is this part going? And my experience is that lawyers are far better at writing and keeping those records than just about any other part of the company. And one of the biggest values that we add in that type of record-keeping is we have a… This will date me. If you ever watched the old TV show Dragnet or listened to the radio program Dragnet… just the facts. Joe Friday said, “Just the facts.” And what a lot of people tend to miss when they’re in charge of writing is they speculate. They use hyperbole, and later on if there’s ever a problem or an investigation or litigation, they’ll start to say, “Well, that’s not really what I meant. That’s not what I meant to say.” And by then it’s too late. It’s very difficult down the road to go back and try to fix something that was written in the heat of the moment.

 

So having your lawyers be the ones as the scriveners, as the keeper of the records of what the company did, when it did it, who did what in a very matter of fact manner is, again, a skill that the lawyers are probably uniquely situated to bring to the table. The second reason why you want to do it is a lot of those documents potentially could be privileged. They could be for the purpose of providing legal advice. And you certainly want the lawyers writing those to be involved in those and ensuring that, again, assuming all the prongs are met, that those records are subject to privilege and would not be turned over to any third parties in the event of litigation or investigation.

 

And one thing I can tell you is that after any crisis situation, certainly of the scale that we’re seeing here, there will be two things that you know will happen when sober. The government will continue to tax, and someone’s going to get sued. So if you know that latter one is going to happen, you might as well start preparing for how do we best protect the company at this given point in time? So that is why, in my opinion, you would want the legal team just in charge of keeping the records.

Chad:

The other thing you mentioned too is… You already alluded to it… lawyers generally are good writers, so they should be involved in the communications. Is that because, obviously, they’re effective communicators, but for strategic advice?

Sterling:

Yes, so part two is the company’s going to want to communicate out, either internally to its employees, shareholders, board, and then externally to customers, potentially the media, whoever outside of the company may be asking questions about what you’re doing and why are you doing it and how are you doing it? Those are all potential pitfalls. There are places where if the wrong thing is written, the wrong thing is sent out, it could either damage the reputation of the company. It could be misinterpreted, taken wrong, or it could be used as fodder in litigation. Lawyers, once again, are really good at spotting those types of issues. And in my experience at multiple companies, there’s probably some resistance to that initially because they think, “Well, you’re going to lawyerize everything. It’s going to be written-

Chad:

Yeah, I was just about to ask that. I was just about to ask that.

Sterling:

Yeah. It’s going to be written like old English from Henry VIII. And what I’ve found is actually most of the lawyers are very good at writing at a much simpler level, at a cleaner level, at a clearer level because, say for example, you’re a litigator. You know that if you’re making arguments to the judge, you’re making arguments to a jury, you have to keep things simple and plain. You really do. You can’t be all flowery. You can’t use a lot of big terms. You just got to keep it pretty basic.

 

So I have found in my experience that the lawyers are actually better at doing that than maybe even the corporate communications team. But once they kind of get over that initial resistance and they find that you’re there to help them, you’re there to be a sounding board, you’re there to be a good editor, you’re not there to necessarily do their job, but if they need help, you’re happy to take tasks on, again, the company’s starting to come together. It’s finding out… Again, going back to your very first question about the value of the legal team is we have this very unique resource internally, a lot of really smart people who can do a lot of different things that aren’t necessarily purely legal in nature. They can write. They can think. They can organize. They can do a lot of different things. And that those are skills that are extremely valuable during a crisis situation. So again, just a lot of places where the legal team can be helpful.

Chad:

So we’ve talked about the response. We’ve talked about communications, but then there’s another big segment, another big role that lawyers have in an organization. It’s the people. Specifically you say huge amount of legal is time and effort in situations like this should be focused on how best to help the company’s employees, starting with the legal team. What are some suggestions there? You can work in a big company with a lot of people, a lot of different units. Where do you start? How do you get organized in that situation?

Sterling:

Well, first thing, as either general counsel or a manager of a group within a legal department, or whatever your role might be, look at your own team and take care of your own team. Everybody is probably panicking, even if they’re not necessarily showing it. Again, lawyers are pretty good at keeping that calm demeanor, but inside they’re like, “Wow, this is the worst than we foresaw.” So being sympathetic, being empathetic with your team, being flexible. Kids are home. Spring break seems to be going on now for for weeks. So people are going to need flexibility in dealing with that. People are going to need reassurance of even something as simple as, “Hey, I’ve lived through something like this before.” I mean, I worked for a travel company post 9/11. I was general counsel after the big financial crash of 2008. I’ve seen lots of pain economically and what that means, and I can tell you from experience yeah, it sucks, but we’ll get through it. You can share that with your team. You can be reassuring. You can be understanding.

 

So make sure your own team feels comfortable and as secure as you can make them. And then the next place I would go, I would be walking down the hall or picking up the phone and talking to the head of HR, going, “Okay, there’s a lot of stuff we need to be thinking about, and I have a list from my end. I’m sure you do too. Let’s sit down and start to work this together and figure out what are the right things to be doing? Who needs to do what?” Because if there’s a place where the law crosses over with any other group in the company, if there’s one more so than HR, I haven’t seen it because there’s all kinds of regulations. There’s all kinds of statutes, all kinds of laws that govern how people will need to be treated or what’s going to happen as this crisis unfolds. And so the legal and the HR team should be joined at the hip. So even something as basic as treating everyone the same. We’re not going to be discriminating against people. If we’re giving this group leave to work from home, there better be a tremendously good reason why other groups can’t work from home. You need to be careful about that.

 

There are statutes, OSHA, Americans with Disability Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the WARN Act. If you’re in Europe, there’s something called TUPE. There’s all kinds of legal issues that you’re going to have to analyze. And probably the third big one is just your own internal policies and do those need to be relaxed, especially around things like time off and paid sick leave? As a company, not only what are our policies that we have in place, but what flexibility are we able to or do we want to provide to our employees? This is not your every day situation, and I think you can’t necessarily just fall back and say, “Well, the black letter says X, and we’re only going to do what the black letter says.” If you’re that inflexible, it’s probably going to be a problem down the road at some point.

Chad:

Because it’s not just employees. I mean, a lot of companies have contractors on premise and off. What do you do about them?

Sterling:

Oh, right. So a lot of times you forget about the other people who are on your premise and contractors or security, cleaning staff. You need to be reaching out to your vendors who provide those services, your landlord. Are these people even coming in? If your security company has told all of its people to stay home, your building now basically has no one at the front desk, so to speak, or checking IDs or letting you know people come in and sign the nondisclosure pad that most companies have now. What’s your backup plan for that? If the cleaning staff isn’t coming in, who’s emptying the trash cans? Who’s dealing with basic maintenance. So you can’t just look at we’ve taken care of our employees. Do we know what to do with respect to our employees? Because there are more likely than not other people who have access to your facilities, and you need to make sure you have that well in hand as well.

Chad:

We’re going to step away from our talk with Sterling for just a couple of minutes because, as I’ve mentioned in this podcast a couple of times, for every episode of Technically Legal, there’s an episode page at tlpodcast.com. At the episode page, you can find contact information for our guests and links to some of the stuff that we talk about. If you want to subscribe to the podcast, you can find us on most major podcasting platforms like Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, Google, et cetera, et cetera. We hope if you like us enough, you’ll also leave us a review when you visit.

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Chad:

Okay. Let’s get back to our talk with Sterling. When people think of lawyers, they often think of lawsuits and courts. But another thing they think of is contracts. And as Sterling points out, in crisis situations, lawyers should take a look at the company’s contracts, both pending and existing, and see what impact, if any, the crisis might have.

Sterling:

Well, probably the clause of the moment, the it girl, is force majeure, which for a lot of lawyers is something you probably have not talked about since contracts in law school. And force majeure is in the boilerplate section, which is kind of the all contracts have these types of terms, but if you haven’t really paid attention to boilerplate in your contracts… And that’s a mistake. I’ll tell you that. But if you are opening up that contract for the first time and seeing what your force majeure clause says, you may be in for a surprise. Basically what a force majeure clause does is it says if there is an act of God, if there is some other crisis… And a lot of times they’re enumerated, hurricane, flood, internet disruption, whatever the case may be… parties are excused from performance. And that can be good or bad, depending on if you want to use it or you’re expecting someone at the other side to use it in dealing with you. So you have to pay attention to what are our outs? what’s our ability to stop performing if we need to because of this crisis? Similarly, what about our customers and our vendors? Are they going to be in a situation where they’re going to come to us and start talking about force majeure?

 

And there are lots of different ways those clauses can be interpreted, whether or not this pandemic was foreseeable or not. So there’s no easy black and white answers. It’s going to depend a lot on the jurisdiction of where you’re based. I will say, however, that if the parties to a contract are only going to be looking at the black letter of force majeure and trying to hold each other strictly to the terms of what the agreement says and arguing about that without really thinking about other things, that’s not a good place to be. Rather, my advice would be to look at this as a time where you’re going to have to have a customer-to-customer or business-to-customer conversation about what do we do together to get through this? They may not always be possible, but I think your initial starting point should be if someone comes to you with, “Look, we think we have a force majeure event,” don’t be swinging at each other as lawyers, but talking to each other as partners and trying to figure out a way through this.

Chad:

When you talk about you might have to relax a little bit, some of the internal HR policies or employment policies need to be flexible in this type of situation, right?

Sterling:

That’s right. You really have to have a level of understanding because when we do come out of this, which we will, you want customers, you want vendors, you want people who are happy to do business with you. And in those situations where one company maybe has all of the commercial leverage and they use it… And I know there are companies out there that do that… they may win the moment, but they may lose the era because when the time comes around and things are balancing out or the shoe’s on the other foot, people are going to remember who treated them right and who treated them like third-class citizens. So it’s something from a strategic standpoint that the legal team can help weigh in on with the business about how should we be looking at these contracts? How should we be dealing with this situation?

 

If you have a pending contract, so it hasn’t been signed yet, you need to think about your force majeure clause or other clauses in there and draft them in light of what’s going on now. You can’t ignore the elephant in the room. And if you don’t have a force majeure clause, there are some other things out there that are concepts of impossibility or impracticability, frustration of purpose. Those are very limited remedies, but those are probably something if you aren’t making headway in a cooperative nature, you may have to look to as a way to get some relief from your contract.

Chad:

Going back to your point about you should be flexible, treat others in a civil manner and in a thoughtful manner now because we’re on the same boat together, you hope that the insurance companies are listening, and you would assume they’re going to be sympathetic and treat you well and fairly too. So one of the things you should adjust too, speaking of insurance, is taking a look at your policies, figuring out what’s there, what you’re up against. What specifically do you recommend in that department?

Sterling:

Depending on where it sits. In a lot of companies, insurance sits in finance or maybe operations. Some it sits in the legal department. Regardless of where it sits, one of your first calls. So now you’ve gone and talked to HR. Go find the insurance people and say, “Okay, what insurance policies do we have? Do we think anything covers our current situation? Do you have the policy?” The gold mine policy, so to speak, is going to be business interruption insurance, some type of insurance that covers you if something disrupts your business, forces you to cancel events, not be able to provide your products, et cetera. But there are other policies that you have, and you should probably read all those, including your property insurance. You may have to look at your health policies. You may have to look at cyber insurance. Don’t just limit it to do we have business interruption insurance or not? Look at everything.

 

If you have a broker, brokers can be tremendously helpful because they will find things in your contracts that maybe you missed or you’re not familiar with. And they’ll say, “Look, yeah, it’s not in that clause, but if you go to annex K on section two, you’ll see this sentence. What that means is this is covered under this.” So there’s a lot of value that you can get from your broker. So don’t just assume if you don’t see something in your insurance policies that there’s not protection there. And then, of course, if you think there’s coverage, and the insurance company says no, don’t just give up. There are lots of instances where the first time they tell you no, second time they might tell you no, but the third time they go, “Okay, yeah, we see what you’re talking about. Now we’re going to say yes.” So persistence is something to to keep up there. But yes, definitely pull out all those insurance policies and read them carefully.

Chad:

Speaking of coverage and claims, what was your experience around 9/11 in regard to pending litigation or pending claims? Did that have an impact? If it did, how did you respond to that? How did you adjust accordingly?

Sterling:

In terms of just general litigation or insurance?

Chad:

Yeah, pending litigation at the time of the event.

Sterling:

Right. Well, it was very hard, you might remember, to travel after 9/11. And things like depositions or hearings that required either you or your outside lawyers to travel somewhere, those were almost inevitably postponed. The technology certainly wasn’t there, at least that I remember, to do remote video depositions, or at least it wasn’t easy to do. That has certainly changed. I think the federal courthouses went dark for maybe a few days, but for the most part, they reopened pretty quickly. This is a little different because you’re dealing with a situation where human-to-human contact is actually part of the problem or that would enhance the problem. So I think what you’re going to see here, if you are in litigation, is things are just going to get delayed. And I’ve already seen that I’m with our firm, is hearings have been canceled. Depositions have been postponed. Anything you can do that’s just filing, fine, but if it requires attendance or requires parties to get together to do something in person or even something as much as getting jurors together. Here in Dallas, all jury trials have been postponed for, I think, at least 30 days, probably longer, because you don’t want to get even the jury pool together, let alone 12 people in a box in a highly confined environment. So you’re going to have to work around those things.

 

And if you’re thinking of filing a lawsuit, if you have a statute of limitations issue, you probably want to get it on file, but you just need to understand that it’s going to take longer just to get that case moving, longer than normal. So it’s going to be very disruptive for litigation and for lawsuits. And then, again, as I mentioned earlier, once we’re done with this, I expect there to be lots of litigation coming out of how companies handled things in light of the pandemic. Someone will find a way to get a lawsuit on file against companies for doing or failing to do whatever. And that’s unfortunate, but it’s going to happen. So that’s just the way it is.

Chad:

Definitely you expect that. And litigation obviously involves and impacts budgeting concerns.

Sterling:

Right. So I think if you have big, high visibility litigations, stuff that’s with the board or the C suite, you certainly want to find out from your outside counsel or however you’re handling that what is going to happen with that case in the short term and in the intermediate term, and then let them know. Don’t make them come to you and ask you, “So what’s going on with this case or this matter?” Anticipate that you’re going to get those questions, and just go ahead and set a meeting or prepare a note saying, “Hey, we’re going to update everyone on the litigation. It’s going to take us a week or so to get all the information. So just sit tight. We’ll let you know what’s going on with everything.” Just be proactive about stuff like that.

 

With your finance team, I think it’s going to be a couple of things. It’s probably going to be, “Look, in the immediate term, we’re probably going to have less cost related to litigation because things are going to grind to a halt or slow down. So maybe we forecasted $10,000 this month. It’s probably going to be half of that or less just because we’re not going to go forward with the depositions or the hearings or whatever.” But that’s just a temporary bubble because once you come out, let’s say 45 days from now, all that stuff’s going to start coming back, and the case will have to be picked up. And downside of a pause like this is no matter how good your outside lawyers are, how much they are sensitive to the cost and the budget, if you walk away from something for 45 days and then now that case is moving again, you’re going to have to spend some time getting back up to speed.

 

So there’s going to be not only a delayed cost, but I predict there’s going to be a little bit of a bubble cost where council’s just going to have to get familiar with the matter or the deal, the M and A deal, or whatever it is that’s been postponed, you’re going to see people, they just can’t maintain that edge for 45 or 60 days and then just jump right back in. So expect maybe to have a little bit higher costs even in that initial month or so of things getting back in gear.

Chad:

As I closed out my talk with Sterling, I asked him to expand on something that he pointed out in his article on pandemics and corporate legal departments. What he said is, “Legal departments should take the lead on ensuring there are clear procedures and guidelines for employees to work remotely.”

Sterling:

What you want to make sure about I think with employees, especially new employees who are working from home, is do you have a remote work policy, a written policy that says things like, “You will use a virtual private network, a VPN when you’re connecting into the company systems. You will ensure that any hard copies of company documents are secured”? Because unlikely as it might be you don’t, you want people to be thinking about the security of documents. And if you’re done with something, either you shred it… So a lot of people have a home shredder… but what you don’t do, you don’t just toss it in the recycle bin at home or the trash because that is highly improper and certainly not highly secure.

 

Have you turned on multifactor authentication? So this sounds like a big word, but basically this is when you log in, you get that text or email with a code, a second code that says you have to enter this six-digit number so you can log into your email or whatever the company system is. Those are things where when people are working remotely, the possibility of someone hacking into their internet, hacking into their system, it increases exponentially from when they are sitting in the office and there’s all kinds of firewalls and secure networks that they’re connected to. So do they have that understanding? And then lastly, unfortunately, you’re probably going to start seeing all kinds of emails, spoof phishing, things going on tied to the pandemic, like trying to get you to click on a malware link or some type of document that contains malware. You have to educate your employees on the basics of good hygiene in terms of document security, internet security, anti-phishing practices, anti-malware practices. So your antivirus software, is that up-to-date? Do people understand what a phishing email looks like and who to call if they’re not sure? Don’t click on those links. Call IT. So there’s just a ton of stuff that you have to be thinking about when you have virtually all of your workforce now working at home versus maybe 20% on any given day.

Chad:

On your blog every year, you do a great article on tech, that year’s hot tech that you found useful to yourself, but maybe legal in general. And this is a legal tech facing podcast, so I wanted to talk to you while we’re on the topic about this remote work of things you suggest that companies and employees have to make their life easier. Your law firm works well remotely. What types of stuff do you recommend-

Sterling:

Right.

Chad:

Providing to employees to get the work done?

Sterling:

We have Microsoft Teams, which allows all of us to collaborate on files with documents. All the documents in Teams are available through SharePoint. It all blends seamlessly. You can set up conference calls using either your phone or voice over IP, which is what I’m doing now actually, and it works very easily. That technology has improved greatly. We also use something called freeconferencecall.com. The name is 100% perfectly descriptive, and I did mention this I think in one of my tech blogs and past years. It’s a service where you can set up conference calls globally. They have dial-in numbers or voiceover IP links for just about every country in the world. You can have hundreds of people join in. You can share screens. You can do video conferencing, and it’s all free. There are free versions of Zoom. There’s Skype. There’s lots of things if you need to have a video call, can’t do a meeting in person, but you want to be able to look at people or at least get your team together where you can kind of do that… If you’ve ever done this, there’s the Brady Bunch box, I call it. There’s three by three row of videos.

 

So that’s really reassuring sometimes when people can actually see each other because a lot of people use Slack, which is similar to Teams, again, a great product. We used that at Marketo, loved it. So there’s a lot of ways that you can stay connected throughout the day and stay in tune with each other through technology that five years ago were either really crummy or didn’t exist. That barrier has been broken, and the stuff that’s available now is really, really good. Even the free stuff is really, really good.

Chad:

You talked about the collaboration software, Microsoft Teams, Slack. And again, to the listeners, I’ll put links to this stuff we’re talking about on the episode page. Because we collaborate remotely now, but even when you’re in the office setting on the same documents and same stuff, legal departments and law firms should definitely have document management systems.

Sterling:

Yes.

Chad:

Don’t you agree with that?

Sterling:

Oh, absolutely. The last thing you want to have happen is I can’t access my documents because they’re on my computer that’s in the office back at work. So having some type of web-based document management tool, be it… We’ve used NetDocs at our firm. iManage is another tool. You can use Box. You can use Dropbox. They have enterprise versions versus just the free versions. All of those have multiple factor authentication, other security levels, so they’re pretty tested. But having the ability to go get your documents that you need wherever you are, from your phone, from your laptop, from your iPad, is almost table stakes these days. And if law firms haven’t done that, boy, you’re absolutely right, Chad, they are truly a little bit of Fred Flintstone in a George Jetson world. And I would say this may be the motivating factor for them to change that.

 

The other thing you can do… And I have this on a couple of my computers… is where the ability where you can log in remotely to either a desktop PC or another laptop.

Chad:

LogMeIn. LogMeIn or something like that.

Sterling:

Yeah, LogMeIn. I use TeamViewer with my mom in Nebraska. I’m her tech support. So when she has a problem, we log on with that. I’ve also used the free Google version for that. I think just about everyone has a version. So not all is lost as long as that is activated on the computer you’re trying to access.

Chad:

Right.

Sterling:

So even if you don’t have one of these more fulsome document management tools, there are other ways to do it. But absolutely critical that law firms have something like that in-house and outside.

 

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