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COVID-19 pandemic in Greece by Serafim Sotiriadis

Greece, among most of the countries in the world, was hit by the coronavirus pandemic. The Greek Government gradually took necessary measures and, ultimately, forced the country to a general “lockdown” on 23 of March. This led most of the businesses to temporarily suspend their operations and activities, while, at the same time, they were allowed to suspend the employment contracts without being required to pay salaries or damages and cover social insurance obligations. As a general measure, the country undertook the obligation to pay 800 Euros per employee whose contract was suspended.

Despite being absolutely necessary for the confrontation of the pandemic outbreak, the measures had dramatic consequences for the businesses and the Greek economy in general. In regards with the businesses, the most negative impact was the drastic fall of their turnovers and consequently their inability to perform their debt obligations, even for financially healthy companies. For this reason, the Greek Government has proceeded to the announcement of new measures, of financial nature this time, with a purpose to keep Greek businesses, to the extent possible, intact from the impact of the “lockdown” or at least to restrict the negative consequences.

Measures announced to be taken from May 2020

The Greek Government announced on 28th of April the undertaking of financial measures in order to relieve the Greek businesses and employees that were hit by Covid-19 outbreak and support the recommencement of the economy. The most important measures in relation to businesses are:

  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through loans granted by the Greek State that will be repaid in the next years with minimum interest rate based on each company’s performance. The total value of the aid will be 1 billion Euros, while each company will not receive more than 500.000 Euros. The main criteria require, first, the companies’ turnover to decrease due to Covid-19 outbreak and, second, the companies not to proceed to lay-offs.
  • Financial aid to the Greek SMEs through grant regarding business loans interest payments for a 3-month period (April, May & June 2020), provided that these companies were still performing on their debt obligations in relation to these loans and they have not proceeded to lay-offs.
  • Starting from May 2020, the Greek companies will be able to receive business loans by the Greek banks up to the amount that correspond to the 25% of their turnover with Greek State guarantees.
  • Suspension of VAT and assessed tax debt payments to the Greek State, however if a company pays the April 2020 instalment, a 25% discount is provided. Again, one of the necessary requirements is for the applying companies to retain the employment positions.

Considering that most of these applications can be made electronically through platforms, our law firm assist our clients in the electronic filling and submission of these applications. It, also, uses its contacts to get additional information, if needed, by making using of the available electronic means, so that the applications are properly filled. In these harsh times, the firm provides its advisory services with the best possible manner to assist the companies – clients, especially those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Greece’s Economy

These liquidity measures are expected to relieve the Greek businesses which were forced to stop operating for more than one month (11 March 2020 – May 2020) and are now gradually being able to get back to their activities. The measures are considered to be of vital importance if taken into account that the country had just exited an 8-year financial recession implementing harsh economic re-adjustment and austerity measures. Except this, tourism constitutes the backbone of Greece’s economy and the largest contributor to its GDP and it is expected to be severely affected for 2020, as Covid-19 crisis broke out just before the summer.

According to the recently published IMF’s World Economic Outlook report, the projections for 2020 have been substantially altered, as the “lockdown” applied by the most of the Eurozone countries will have immense impact on their economic status. In particular, Greece is expected to lose approximately 10% out of its GDP for 2020, in contrary to the 2.2% GDP increase that was projected for the same year before the coronavirus outbreak. However, the country is forecasted to return to growth in the next year, to 5.1% for 2021. Despite the deeper economic impact for 2020, Greece’s recovery is projected to be more dynamic than other economies, such as Spain’s and Italy’s. This fact is justified by the timely actions of the Greek Government in response to the coronavirus outbreak and the periodic consequences of the tourism’s underperformance for 2020.

In the aftermath of the pandemic

The gradual lifting of the pandemic measures, starting from the 4th of May, earmarks the return to “normality” which will not be the same as known before. The epidemiologists warn that the pandemic is not over yet and the perils of another outbreak cannot be ignored. For this, the Greek Government has set, alongside the economic relief measures, certain rules in order to restrict the possibilities for the pandemic to break out again. These measures purport to minimise the personal contacts that could lead to the spread of the virus.

Among these rules, the most important for the companies are:

  • Flexible schedules must be followed for the next months, so that people attend their working place alternately.
  • Teleworking must be encouraged, where possible, to avoid unnecessary contacts.

Our law firm, trying to be in line with the recent legislation, has applied new methods in the working environment and in the manner, it delivers its legal services to our clients by making use the capabilities that technology offers today. Indicatively, the firm conduct their usual internal meetings only by electronic means through live video calls, while meetings with clients and fellow advisors are made through teleconferences maintaining the level of the services in the same standards as before. Also, the firm in order to protect its personnel applies a repeating working schedule enabling a certain number of associates/partners to attend the office each time, while in person meetings with clients are scheduled, where absolutely necessary, applying the hygiene rules.

Duane Morris Celebrates Black History Month

Last year, Duane Morris had the honor of hosting civil rights icon Fred Gray, who shared inspiring stories of being the attorney who represented Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and others in some of the most consequential cases in the civil rights movement.

Growing up in the segregated South, Gray made a commitment to himself that he would “finish Alabama State, take the bar exam and destroy everything segregated I could find.”

Only months after being admitted to the bar, Gray’s first case was representing Claudette Colvin, who was arrested on March 2, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to forfeit her seat for a white rider while on her way to school. While unsurprisingly losing that case (young Colvin was put on unsupervised probation), Gray kept all of the court documents, knowing that another opportunity would come.

After much discussion and strategising in the community, Gray’s friend Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her bus seat to a white rider on December 1, 1955. Parks, only his second client, was arrested on a Thursday and the case was quickly slated for the following Monday. Gray prepared the case over the weekend, while the activists in the community simultaneously prepared for the Montgomery bus boycott. Realising the boycott needed a spokesperson, they enlisted the help of Dr. King, who until that time had not been active in the civil rights movement. Gray argued the case for the next year, until finally achieving legal victory in federal court, ending the boycott after 382 days.

The attention drawn by Dr. King during the boycott prompted state authorities to charge King, who had left Alabama, for perjury in connection with filing a false tax return, of which he was acquitted. Of the achievement, Gray said, “We had a good team together and were able to get an all-white jury in the middle of the sit-in demonstrations in the spring of 1960 to end up finding that Dr. King was innocent of perjury.” Gray went on to explain, “I think that was one of the most important cases because he was now protesting the Vietnam War. If it had come out that, while he was leading this new civil rights organisation and at the same time he’s cheating and wouldn’t pay his taxes, it would have been devastating.”

In the decades that followed, Gray’s legal work in the 1960s included paving the way for redistricting and reapportioning legislative bodies across the nation with the “one man, one vote” concept; getting court-ordered protection for marchers as they walked from Selma to Montgomery to present grievances as a result of being unable to vote; one of the first civil rights actions brought to remedy systematic exclusion of blacks from jury service; and integrating all state institutions of higher learning in Alabama under the control of the state Board of Education, as well as most elementary and secondary school systems. In the 1970s, Gray served as counsel to preserve and protect the rights of those involved in the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study and has been the moving force in the establishment of the Tuskegee Human and Civil Rights Multicultural Center.

Legacy in Law

George Boyer Vashon was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in 1824. His father was an abolitionist who was a well-respected leader in the black community and the abolitionist movement. As a teenager, Vashon co-founded the Pittsburgh Anti-Slavery Society in 1838. He was the first African-American to graduate from Oberlin College in Ohio, where he was class valedictorian. Vashon apprenticed for the law in Pittsburgh under Judge Walter Forward, who was later U.S. Secretary of the Treasury.

Despite of his qualifications and academic achievements, Vashon was not allowed to sit for the Pennsylvania bar exam due to his race.

Instead, Vashon moved to New York and became the first licensed African-American attorney in that state. He then taught in Haiti; practiced law in Syracuse, New York; was a professor at New York Central College; and later returned to Pittsburgh, where he became a principal at African-American public schools and served as president of Avery College. He again petitioned to sit for the Pennsylvania bar exam, 20 years after his first attempt, and was again denied. Vashon moved to Washington, D.C., where he was admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1867, he became the first black professor at Howard University. Vashon became a professor of ancient and modern languages at Alcorn University in 1873.

More than a century and a half after being denied admission to the bar in Pennsylvania because of the color of his skin, Vashon’s great-grandson Nolan N. Atkinson Jr., his firm Duane Morris and others set out to right this historical wrong, finally winning official recognition from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and getting Vashon admitted to the state bar in an official ceremony in 2010.

When the Minority Corporate Counsel Association awarded Duane Morris with its prestigious Innovator Award in 2012, the MCCA renamed the award after Vashon. Duane Morris has also gone on to keep the pioneer’s legacy going by hosting the annual George B. Vashon lecture series, which has seen academic leaders, federal judges, legislators and others speak on civil rights and social justice issues.

History of Firsts

During Nolan Atkinson’s nearly 25 years at Duane Morris, his focus on his thriving commercial litigation practice never prevented him from making sure he used that position to continue the work of people like Vashon. Atkinson, a participant in the 1963 March on Washington, was instrumental in the Philadelphia Diversity Law Group, Inc., a consortium of law firms and corporations committed to increasing ethnic and racial diversity in Philadelphia’s larger law firms. He was a tireless contributor to the Conference of Minority Partners in Majority Corporate Law Firms, a constituent entity of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession of the ABA and numerous other groups focused on diversity. He was the first Chief Diversity Officer at Duane Morris and served in that role for eight years.

Fittingly, when the City of Philadelphia wanted to establish the role of Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Mayor Jim Kenney turned to Atkinson. Since 2016, Atkinson has brought his energy to knocking down the barriers that had historically kept the city’s large workforce racially and economically divided and creating a culture that attracts talented, diverse leaders to Philadelphia government.

Diversity & Inclusion

Helmed by Joseph K. West, who succeeded Atkinson in 2016 as Duane Morris’ Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, the firm’s diversity and inclusion program is managed with the objective of utilising the best talent worldwide in solving legal problems. The firm recruits a diverse pool of lawyers that collectively possess an awareness of cutting-edge 21st century issues—legal, social and economic—for which clients require solutions. West has stated, “We see our robust approach to diversity and inclusion not just as a critical part of the DNA of the firm and essential to our business, but also as central to our every interaction with each of our clients. It allows us to engage with existing and prospective clients, with existing and prospective employees and with every aspect of our public engagement where we consistently emphasise that diversity and inclusion is part of the fabric of our firm and that it informs every aspect of our internal and external relationships.”

West, in addition to being an active litigator representing domestic and global companies, is a nationally recognised subject matter authority in the field of diversity and inclusion, and leader of the firm’s unique Diversity and Inclusion Consulting Group which focuses on crafting sustainable diversity and inclusion programs and solutions for corporate entities. Earlier in his career, West successfully leveraged his role as Head of Global Outside Counsel Management at Walmart to establish and meet diversity and inclusion goals through its outside counsel spend, for which he is recognised as being at the forefront of building the business case for diversity. He also facilitated the company’s role as an initial signatory to the Inclusion Initiative with the National Association of Minority & Women Owned Law Firms. West went on to spend five years as President and CEO of MCCA, tripling membership in the national advocacy group for corporate diversity and inclusion issues. In 2019, West was the recipient of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award: Diversity & Equality from Chambers and Partners.

How Artificial Intelligence Will Directly Affect The Media Industry

Many media companies from around the globe are anticipating the affect that artificial intelligence (AI) will have on the way they do business. The dynamic nature of technology trends demands its continuous evolution from publishing to a digital media company. Progress has been made in terms of content, as well as in terms of technology used to gather and publish information.

Artificial intelligence now possesses a larger pool of data to work with and automate so as to generate reports and other forms of content.

But How Will AI Affect Your Business?

Data Collection

Content in media is generated in all visible media formats. Relevant keywords, sentiments, and entities, along with topic classification is computed. Image classification is used for face detection or finding important parts of an image. All this data is then used to build a knowledge graph for ease of content search, recommendations, and relevant content syndication. The second part of data collection is around collecting time series data on what content is consumed by the end user. This helps the algorithm match user interest with content meta data.

Insights Utilisation

The insights obtained from text mining allow for trends to be identified and leveraged in order to solidify a target audience and appeal to their interests. Historical analysis of trending content helps the editors focus on the topics they would want to write and distribute across social media. By serving relevant ads for a target audience, the ROI for the advertisers can be improved resulting in increased revenue for the publisher. High performing advertising campaigns then become templates for future campaigns and low-performing ones can be analysed for their defects.

Customer Feedback

Algorithms can also help formulate responses to questions posed by customers. A direct outcome of this report would be the ability to weed out fake news that may be published by backlinking their sources and exposing their inaccuracies. Smart artificial intelligence would be able to perform these semiotic analyses to determine accuracy.