My husband was a story guy for the Star Trek family of TV shows at Paramount Studios. Each writer was given the “Star Trek Bible,” a compendium of frequently-asked-questions relating to the world of Star Trek from the dimensions of the U.S.S. Enterprise to how to work the holodeck to the functions of warp drive. The purpose of the Star Trek Bible was to make sure that every writer understood the universe in which Star Trek operated. It insured consistency from episode to episode, made provided background for outside writers, and all but eliminated the writers’ questions to the staff and creative team.
A Company Bible serves exactly the same purpose. It is a compendium of information about your company that:
- Lays a foundation for legal advice from your attorney;
- Insures consistency in information about your company from case to case;
- Preserves your corporate culture and integrity through the stress and urgency of legal disputes; and
- Gives your attorney what she needs to know about your company and your industry.
If created and kept up to date, a Company Bible will reduce the number of times you have to answer the same questions both internally and to outside counsel. By providing the Company Bible at the start of an attorney-client relationship, or even at the start of a lawsuit, you will reduce the number of calls and emails exchanged to gather basic information about your corporate organization, human resources operations, and, generally, how the company runs.
Removing this step in attorney-client relationship building will allow you and your attorney to get down to things that really matter – substantive advice and counsel, and defense strategies.. Simply put, if you can reduce the number of initial phone calls and email exchanges concerning corporate information and architecture, you will necessarily reduce the attorney’s fees you pay.
Here’s what I want in a Company Bible:
Articles of incorporation for the exact name of the company, and date and state of incorporation; every d/b/a used by the company, parent, affiliate and subsidiary; business license by entity, type, number, jurisdiction, date of issuance and expiration.
Address of the primary location (headquarters) and other locations; include the facilities roster, with addresses.
A description of the relationship between affiliated corporations; corporate organizational charts reflecting the company and its parents, affiliates, and subsidiaries; organization charts reflecting individual entities and their departments and/or divisions; officers and board members of each entity by name and title; organization chart with position titles in each department, reporting relationships and names.
Product or Services Information
Brochures about products manufactured or services provided by company; identity of major competitors; industry organizations, information with special bearing on the employment relationships; names of magazines, newsletters or publications that cater to the industry.
Number of employees in the US and in each state; employee handbook(s), addenda, policies and procedures; employment agreements; collective bargaining agreements; list of positions within the company; job descriptions; employee forms.
Benefit plan summaries, election and COBRA election paperwork; stock option, sales, bonus or incentive compensation plans.
Name, phone and e-mail for company contact, and preferred method of communication; EPLI, E&O, general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies; billing guidelines, schedules and task codes; name of the agent for service of process; preferred vendors. If you have been through litigation before, you might store the answers to questions frequently asked in discovery and a full set of current and archival HR documents.
Be sure to number every copy of the Company Bible. Provide it only to attorneys you retain, and retrieve it when the relationship or matter is concluded. Oh, and the hard part? You have to update it at least annually.
Illustration Credit: Jesse Philips
Article by Mary Wright
Mary Wright is the Founding Editor of HR Gazette, an online magazine for HR professionals and employment lawyers. She specializes in workable business solutions to complex human resource problems. You can connect with her on Linkedin or follow her on Twitter.
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