Do You Have a Disaster Readiness Plan?

Here are some tips to get started.

Do you have a plan – other than making an emergency run to Wal-Mart – for what to do if a disaster strikes your law firm?

If not, you haven’t been reading the news. Every day, the headlines are filled with dire reports of disasters that are natural (wildfires, hurricanes), man-made (cyberattacks, ransomware), or perhaps a combination of the two (collapsing buildings).

The risk management solution: develop a disaster preparedness plan for your law practice.

“When a storm is approaching, we can stock up on water and canned food items and make sure we have batteries for the flashlight,” writes Lawyers Mutual Consulting & Services CEO Camille Stell in this article for Attorney at Work. “But planning for a law firm disaster requires more time and effort than a run to Costco.”

One tip from Camille Stell: keep your disaster plan as simple as possible.

“Rather than obsessing over an extensive 25-page Disaster Recovery Preparedness Plan (that you’ll never get around to building), create a one-page checklist,” she writes in the Attorney at Work piece. “This is a step you can take today. Create the list, tell key employees or family where to find it, and sleep easier tonight.”

Below are some specific things to include in your checklist.

Read 5 Disaster Preparedness Tips for Your Law Firm in Attorney at Work here.

Here is the Attorney at Work website.

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5 Tips for a Law Firm Disaster Preparedness Plan

Following are excerpts from Camille Stell’s 5 Tips piece, courtesy of Attorney at Work:

1. Make sure your disaster checklist contains the essential information. This will include: passwords and login info for your firm’s platforms and mobile devices; instructions on accessing your client database and calendar system; bank account and credit card information; an inventory of your digital assets, including vendors, email, website, and social media; your professional liability insurance policy information, including how to notify your carrier.

2. Designate an assisting attorney. “An assisting lawyer agrees to be available when an emergency strikes, but you can also identify an assisting lawyer to serve as a backup while you are on parental leave, medical leave or sabbatical,” Stell suggests. “Choose someone with expertise in your practice area. Execute a written agreement defining the relationship and the duties they will take on for you. Authorize the lawyer in writing of your consent for them to contact your clients. Some lawyers provide this notification in their engagement letter so that the client is aware of the emergency plan from the beginning of the representation.”

3. Have a succession plan. Camille Stell wrote the book – literally – on succession planning. Learn more here.

4. Shore Up Your Communication Channels. Per Stell: “In a time of disaster, regular communication channels are often comprised. Taking the example of a natural disaster, you need to talk through your plan in advance with your staff. Determine whether the office will be closed and how the team will be notified, review the court’s contingency plan for hearing cases, and share expected outcomes with your clients. Now is the time to document your plan and improve on it annually.”

5. Include essential office tech in your plan. Major categories are: (1) Hardware (phone systems, computers, mobile devices, scanners, VoIP services, call forwarding, virtual receptionists, high-speed internet, backup systems) and (2) Software (practice management, document management, calendar/document systems, marketing and client relationship management (CRM) tools, collaboration tools, Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, videoconferencing software, e-signature tools, secure client portal, credit card processing and payment plans, email campaign software.

Source: Attorney at Work

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