This might come as a shock to some Big Law firms, but in-house lawyers throughout the world are sick of the unrelenting barrage of coronavirus-related emails and webinar invitations.
Caitlin “Cat” Moon, director of Innovation Design for the Program on Law and Innovation at Vanderbilt Law School, dropped that bombshell by way of a Tuesday evening Twitter post. Her tweet has garnered hundreds of “likes,” dozens of retweets and set off an entertaining and informative thread involving not only in-house lawyers but at least one Big Law partner.
Moon wrote: “Dear law firms, Just talked w/ two of your big clients. They’re getting 250+ emails a day from y’all offering webinars on #coronavirus crisis updates. They don’t have time to attend your webinars. What they want? Max 1-page summary of what they need to know. You’re welcome.”
She added: “Pro tip: ASK YOUR CLIENTS WHAT THEY NEED FROM YOU RIGHT NOW. Whoever is telling you to produce webinars has not talked to your clients.”
Some in-house counsel who applauded Moon for speaking out about COVID-19 information overload include Microsoft Corp. assistant general counsel Dennis Garcia, Salary.com’s top lawyer, Colin Levy, and Euan Sinclair, senior legal counsel for the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia.
“Why is it so hard? I had a global GC say to me yesterday ‘I am getting flooded with updates on force majeur [sic] clauses but only two partners have called me in the last two weeks. WTF!,’” tweeted Alex Smith, the London-based global product management lead for iManage RAVN. Smith formerly served as the innovation manager for Reed Smith.
Moon said Wednesday in an interview that she hadn’t expected to spark such a strong reaction. Much of her work is focused on delivering client-centered legal services, and she said the way in which some firms are delivering coronavirus info to clients “obviously does not check that box very well.”
She added, “I think there’s a desire to serve and meet clients’ needs and help them. And that desire should start with just reaching out to clients.”
It’s not just in-house lawyers who are annoyed with the deluge of COVID-19 information.
In a reply to Moon’s tweet, K&L Gates partner Daniel Farris in Chicago wrote: “Good God, yes. THIS! 100%. I am a #biglaw #attorney and I get 50+ emails a day about #COVID offerings. I cannot imagine how bad it is for my #Inhouse colleagues. I have personally declined to participate in many. #firms should LISTEN. Clients will tell you what they need.”
Farris was voicing his personal opinion, but doing so was brave considering the fact that K&L Gates and virtually every other sizable firm in the country, if not the world, have been churning out a seemingly endless stream of COVID-19 content.
Of course, many media outlets are guilty as well.
Jeff Carr, former general counsel for Univar Solutions, tweeted that he was still getting hit with a daily tsunami of coronavirus content from law firms even though he was no longer a GC. He called it an “infodemic.”
People are hungry for coronavirus information, but the producers of that information need to be delivering content that is as useful as it is succinct.
“From my perspective, I tend to think that it’s great they’re sending out these emails and everything, but honestly, as Cat mentioned in her tweet, I don’t have time to listen to a webinar right now,” said Levy of Salary.com.
“Information overload has already been a problem and this has only made it worse,” he added.
Cameron Findlay, general counsel for Archer Daniels Midland Co., wrote in an email that he appreciates that firms are offering help and information, but said all the emails, especially from firms that he’s not worked with previously, “can be a little overwhelming and off-putting.”
“In-house lawyers are swamped with work and crisis management, and in many cases are working under stress from home, with constant interruptions from family and pets,” he added. “A firm should really think hard about whether sending constant emails, holding webinars, and so forth is actually helpful, or makes the firm seem tone-deaf in the middle of a pandemic.”
As for Moon, she has found some peace by disabling her news notifications. Now, she seeks out the information she wants rather than allowing it to come to her.
“That’s working out well for me,” she said. “I feel a lot less anxiety.”