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Lawyers Must Step Up to Assist the Business Community

With our President’s declaration of a nationwide lockdown, most business leaders find themselves in uncharted waters and, without help, face dire consequences for their enterprises. Business leaders are pressed to take decisive action quickly and communicate these decisions appropriately to enable their companies to weather the storm.

Many of the decisions they face have legal elements – some companies face the real possibility of breaching contracts to which they are party, some are experiencing their counterparties’ breaches, some are needing to change terms of employment, some are needing to change terms in funding agreements, and the list goes on.   

These decisions need to be made quickly, but seeking legal advice through the ordinary channels is time-consuming and costly. Time and money are two things in most short supply at this time, especially for business leaders who are under pressure from all sides.

At the same time, we have thousands of well qualified and experienced lawyers across the country, many of whom are experiencing a downturn in workstreams which opens up valuable capacity. 

At Caveat, we’re actually experiencing an increase in workflows as the COVID-19 crisis picks up momentum. It helps that we’re a completely virtual organization, and our systems have been built to optimally support remote working. But notwithstanding this, our team of 55 commercial lawyers do have spaces available in their diaries to provide support to business leaders under strain.

So, for the next three weeks, we’re offering free 30-minute virtual consultations to business leaders needing guidance on legal issues arising from the crisis and impending lockdown. We’ll do this on a first-come-first-serve basis through an online application process. Our systems allow for the capturing of the basics of the legal issue in each case, the uploading of relevant documents to make for the quick triage and efficient steering of the matter to an appropriately experienced specialist, and the setting up of a consultation. 

This crisis calls on us all to look beyond ourselves and our families, and towards the community at large. It calls on us to find ways to use our education and experience to make a meaningful impact where it would be most felt. In this effort, we call on our competitors to do the same. To our friends and colleagues, the excellent lawyers at Bowmans, ENS, Cliffe Dekker, Werksmans, Norton Rose, Webber Wentzel, and others: We challenge you to offer free and meaningful assistance to the business community during this crisis. 

Most of us undertook a career in law because we wanted to help the vulnerable. Somehow, that driver was buried under a load of other ‘imperatives’ like making lots of money, earning professional standing and clout, perfecting our technical and academic prowess, preening over our meticulously collected and weighty credentials, and proving our superiority over our competitors. 

So we find ourselves working in an environment where we are removed from the everyday suffering of the masses, often to the point where we are unable to locate our original motives for this career. For many of us this has been a necessity – the idealism of our youth has been thinned out by the practical and emotional hardships of adult life.

But as commercial lawyers, we can relate to the pressures felt by the brave entrepreneurs and business leaders out there underpinning our economy. We work with these admirable people every day. Now is the time to reconnect with our long-buried idealistic inspirations, and step up to help.

Although competition is necessary and even fun, this is the time for open-heartedness and collaboration for the greater good. Together, we can make a huge impact on businesses, their ecosystems, the business community and our economy as a whole. 

We can’t afford not to – too much depends on it. DM


This article was written by Yvonne Wakefield, Founder & CEO of Caveat Legal


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