Sustaining Critical Telecoms Projects Through the Pandemic

Leaders in the Legal Sector. Practice Leadership Through the First Wave of the Coronavirus Crisis

Leaders are facing the greatest challenge of their careers. As stated by McKinsey & Co: 

“The goal for…leaders is to emerge from this not having just “managed” the crisis but being stronger because of it. 

For this reason, it’s important…to keep a steady hand on initiatives and programs that can help the business become tech forward” and navigate the current landscape.

In the next edition of our legal sector Futr Spotlight, we caught up with Tracey Sheehan, Partner and Head of Telecoms Practice at Hill Dickinson, to share her thoughts on the crisis, its immediate impact on clients, and what this could mean for the future.

Please could you give a brief intro to yourself and Hill Dickinson?

“No problem – Hill Dickinson is a full-service, international law firm, headquartered in Liverpool and with offices across the UK, Monaco, and Far-East.

We grew predominantly within the marine sector, but have experienced a lot of growth across corporate, construction, and technology over the last 5-10 years.

Personally, I head the Telecoms practice, part of the Business Services Group (BSG), which includes corporate, commercial, construction, and property.

The team supports clients on telecoms regulations, transactions, and network projects and roll-outs, across everything – from mobile, wireless, satellite, to broadband. This is primarily focussed on critical infrastructure industries.”

What challenges did your clients and team face during the first few weeks of the pandemic?

“The biggest initial challenges for clients came around roll-out projects, as civil engineers were deemed key workers but needed to adhere to social distancing both on site and during travel.

Beyond this, clients needed guidance around HR challenges given the furlough scheme being utilised, as well as on force majeure and its application with regard to termination of contracts and liquidated damages from contractors being squeezed.

Taking a step back, the wider impact stems from the delay to project timelines and the subsequent economic impact. These delays can put funding from the UK government at risk in certain situations, too.

From a team perspective, we were fortunate that we are normally based on client-site, so agile working was already a consistent feature of our routines.”

How did your team adapt to help clients get through these initial challenges?

“We normally collaborate with colleagues in other practice groups – e.g. corporate, strategy – when serving clients, as telecoms is far-reaching within the economy.

However, to better support clients we’re definitely now leveraging a wider pool of experience within Hill Dickinson – from the health & safety law experts of the highways lawyers in the Construction team, to the HR and employment team for people matters.

In addition to this, we’ve created a new COVID hub that clients can access, providing guidance and distilling the latest government communications.

Clients have certainly valued our ability to address these new, unexpected, and multifaceted needs, and from our side it’s been useful increasing collaboration with practice groups we previously seldom interacted with.”

What implications do you think the last several weeks will hold for the future?

“New, agile ways of working are being adopted across industries – anecdotally, here in Manchester I’ve spoken with a number of clients who now no longer view getting on the M56 at 6:30am as a necessary part of starting work at 9!

Indeed, some of our own partners, who previously saw the office as the only effective place to work, are now fully converted as to the possibilities offered by agile working.

A challenge, one I know a fair few of us are encountering, is around bandwidth and connectivity issues during things like video conferences when using domestic internet connections.

This highlights the importance of the infrastructure that underpins our ability to connect with one another from anywhere in the world, and supports the ongoing 4th industrial revolution.

Hence I think we’ll find public awareness of telecoms initiatives increasing notably, and with that heightened awareness comes increased expectations alongside resources that should see the industry well placed to accelerate out of the current pandemic.”

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