The world looks very different as I approach the end of my term as Section Chair on June 1 than it did when I began a year ago.
We live in a most challenging time – challenging for each of us, both personally, with concerns for the health and safety of our families and friends, and professionally as business lawyers, as we counsel our clients in a rapidly changing world of government directives, employment law mandates, and public health advice, and as we learn to practice law remotely, and help our clients do business – or at least help their businesses survive – in a time of social distancing.
One of the best sources for current information in this time has been the Business Law Section and the New York State Bar Association. The Governor has issued a sequence of near-daily executive orders, including requiring workforces to work remotely or not at all, providing for banks to permit mortgage payment deferrals in cases of financial hardship, and permitting video notarizing of documents (not to mention remote execution of wills and formalization of marriages). The New York Department of Financial Services has issued a series of directives to financial institutions addressing COVID-19 issues. An ever-changing set of loans, grants and tax benefits have been made available to lawyers, law firms, and their clients from federal, state, and local governments and others.
As all this has been happening, the Business Law Section Communities on the NYSBA website have been a source of up-to-the minute accurate information. Indeed, I have been able to give up-to-date advice to clients because of information in Section Communities posts. (If you want to get the full benefit of these updates, you need to make sure you are subscribed to the Business Law Section’s main Community, the Communities of the various Committees relevant to your practice, and the COVID-19 Legal Information Initiative Community. Make sure that you select real-time emails, rather than one of the less frequent options, if you want to stay up to date. Follow the Communities link at the top of the NYSBA home page.)
NYSBA has also reached out to the Section to produce on short notice a series of webinars addressing legal issues for businesses raised by COVID-19. We responded quickly, and produced a webinar on “Coronavirus – What Businesses Should Do to Prepare” that was made available free to the entire NYSBA membership on March 16, 2020. That webinar has reached over 1,500 registrants and remains available on demand. Another webinar on March 24 on “The Pandemic is Beyond Your Control – But is it Force Majeure?” was also a large success, as was one on restructuring issues that companies may face in light of COVID-19.
We are planning a Virtual Series on Virtual Business Law Practice to help our members address issues raised by this brave new world, including such matters as cybersecurity concerns; virtual shareholder meetings; virtual mediations; virtual depositions; and virtual closings.
In short, the Business Law Section has been and intends to continue to be a valuable resource to business lawyers in serving their clients, and staying current in a world that is changing even more rapidly than ever. And at the same time, we will continue to comment on pending legislation, and to make legislative proposals. And we will provide ways to connect during this time of disconnectedness, like our Virtual Wine Tasting on April 27 hosted by the inestimable Jay Hack and the BLS Wine, Beer and Spirits Law Committee
We look forward to the time – soon, we hope – when we are able again to gather together safely, when we will resume holding meetings that offer cutting edge CLE, valuable networking, and the opportunity to make friends and colleagues of some of the finest business lawyers around. We hope to start with rescheduling our recently canceled meeting on emerging issues in corporate governance in Mystic, Connecticut together with the Connecticut Bar Association Business Law Section and the NYSBA Corporate Counsel Section.
If you are not already active in the Section, please join us. We have lots of opportunities to participate, and you have lots to gain by doing so. In the meantime, keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and safe.
Chair, NYSBA Business Law Section