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Conduct a legal premortem to identify and mitigate risk before a crisis

Jonathan Aronie (jaronie@sheppardmullin.com) is a partner in Sheppard Mullin’s Washington, DC, office and leads the firm’s Government Contracts and Internal Investigations Practice Group, and is the co-founder of the Organizational Integrity Group.

More than 2,000 years ago, a Jewish sage living in Jerusalem compiled a book of wisdom today known as Ecclesiasticus.[1] The book was translated from Hebrew to Greek by the author’s son around 130 BC, and much later, the book was translated into English. Among the aphorisms that find their origin in this ancient text is one we’ve all heard before: haste makes waste. In the late 1700s, Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have remarked to his valet as he prepared for battle, “dress me slowly; I’m in a hurry.” We don’t know whether Napoleon had read Ecclesiasticus (Napoleon generally is regarded as having been rather skeptical of religion, so it’s quite possible he had not), but he certainly understood the underlying truthfulness of the adage: the more in a hurry you are, the more you need to slow down.

Since the introduction of the terms “SARS-CoV-2,” “coronavirus,” and “COVID-19” into our collective lexicon in early 2020, businesses across the globe have certainly been in a hurry. Sales leaders rushed to find innovative ways to preserve or rebuild revenue in the face of a shuttered economy. Contracts managers dusted off terms and conditions they had all but forgotten about prior to the pandemic. Human resources teams struggled to deal with unplanned furloughs and layoffs. And in-house counsel worked nonstop to make sense of an endless stream of new statutes, executive orders, regulations, directives, and guidelines from federal, state, and local officials. Many of these stressors continue to this day and will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

With all that going on, who can afford to slow down? A better question may be, “Who cannot afford to slow down?”

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