Management Matters: Don't think disaster can't or won't happen to your firm
Vol. 77, No. 2 / Mar. - Apr. 2021
Jennifer M. Ramovs
Jennifer M. Ramovs is the director of practice management at Affinity Consulting. At no cost, Missouri lawyers can email their practice management questions to an expert or schedule a one-on-one, remote consultation. Ramovs is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mother Nature is an equal opportunity disruptor.
Whether a firm is the new kid on the block or a venerable institution, it is undeniably susceptible to a catastrophe that can appear with little notice while wielding devastating results. However, that is not to say firms are helpless to the powerful hands of the fates. With a handful of best practices, Missouri lawyers can protect their firms, teams, and clients from a disaster that might knock the proverbial wind out of a business, but most importantly, never render it irreparably harmed. If lawyers are diligent with their preparation and willing to embrace beneficial technologies and procedures, these simple tips can insulate them from the constant threat of disaster.
The first step in preparing for the unforeseen is to organize all files, including client files and employee documentation. This critical, initial step should encompass paper files as well as electronic data, making sure everything is concise and put into its proper place. Lawyers should use offsite, deep storage facilities whenever appropriate, as long as the facility has its own adopted procedures and mechanisms to mitigate the impact of a disaster.
Obviously, in this digitized world, data plays a critical role in nearly every aspect of a firm’s operations. As such, preserving the integrity of that data in the face of a natural disaster should be an ongoing priority for every firm. Continuing the previous step of getting organized, proper offsite storage of vital digital information must be adequately secured from both the forces of nature as well as human-based threat.
Any cloud-based data storage must be properly encrypted and secured to prevent highly sensitive information from slipping into the hands of the black hats of the world. Finding and maintaining such protocols should be mandatory for a firm’s IT department as a constant influx of case files, documentation, and client communication requires a continually fluid yet perpetually secure storage solution.
Neither courts nor clients will pause if a disaster strikes a firm, so it’s important to be prepared to seamlessly hit the ground running, no matter what catastrophes might come. Remember, locally based servers providing data backup can still make a firm susceptible to disaster if a regional calamity strikes a business, the storage provider, or the surrounding area.
Have a Preparedness Plan
Of course, in the event of a disaster, the immediate priority must be to protect staff from harm. Routinely practicing evacuation procedures makes certain all team members know precisely what to do in the event of an emergency. Regarding the office itself, lawyers should formalize a disaster plan with the office manager or equivalent, creating a list of all parties a firm might need to contact.
A preparedness plan should include insurance companies, vendors, property management, financial institutions, local first responders, and any contracted security providers or alarm systems. Firm leaders should also keep ongoing, detailed files of belongings – including office equipment, furniture, and anything else that would need to be replaced by an insurance carrier.
While it is impossible to completely shield a firm from the significant impact of disaster, even unforeseen and devastating events are not insurmountable with a bit of time, effort, and diligence. Most importantly, lawyers shouldn’t think disasters can’t or won’t strike their firms; staff, clients, and efforts are too important to underestimate nature’s indifference. Lawyers can check out The Missouri Bar’s Law Practice Management site at mobar.org/LPM for more resources to be prepared.
1 Jennifer M. Ramovs is the director of practice management at Affinity Consulting. At no cost, Missouri lawyers can email their practice management questions to an expert or schedule a one-on-one, remote consultation. Ramovs is available at email@example.com.