Login | December 18, 2018

Planning for disaster

Technology for Lawyers

Published: October 27, 2017

Floods. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Shootings. Whatever disasters affect human life can also have a widespread negative impact on a law practice. What do you do in the face of a disaster that shuts down or severely alters your business?

Step one: Plan ahead. And take this seriously—it is as important to disaster plan as it is to business plan.

The American Bar Association has several resources dedicated to both disaster preparedness and recovery for attorneys, and the newer plans all cover safeguarding data and electronics. In particular, the ABA Law Practice Division has a few tips for disaster planning, and the ABA has published a few sets of guidelines.

Here is an overview.

One, appoint a disaster manager to help develop and implement a disaster recovery plan that should include both how to avoid problems in case of an emergency and how to respond to one.

The basic overview here is to create a virtual office that can be accessed in real time during and after an emergency.

Disaster recovery will be helped by making the office as mobile as possible. Doing that will automatically give you some of the tools that you will need in disaster recovery, like cloud data storage, remote access to data (including your computer system), and perhaps a cloud-based phone system. The data servers for your backup data should be physically located far away from the office (and home)—like another state.

You’ll need to keep the money coming in and going out, so plan for that. That basically means that billing, calendaring and bill paying also need separate and remote backup. Also, if it is a general, local disaster, banks will be closed. You may want to keep cash in a safe in the office or off-site.

Physically, put all electronica on UPS power systems, and keep all important information, if possible, in water-proof safes.

It is important to be able to communicate with clients and courts in the aftermath, and let them all know what the disaster was and what you’re doing to recover as soon as possible.

That’[s a brief look, but for a comprehensive, if unofficial, overview of disaster recovery from the ABA, there is a 45-page disaster recovery handbook from 2011 on the bar association website at https://www.americanbar.org.

And, again, you really need to do this now.