Business Continuity and Disaster Planning for Law Firms – Part 3: Reopening for the Long Term
Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve been writing about business continuity and disaster planning for law firms. As I explained last week, the current pandemic is a perfect example of why it’s so important to put in place a business continuity plan that will ensure your law firm’s success and stability, no matter what the future brings. After all, the more prepared you are for any eventuality, the more likely your law firm will be able to survive and thrive in the midst of uncertainty.
Reopen your firm with business continuity in mind
Business continuity is an important principle to keep in mind as you take steps to reopen your law firm. Of course it’s important to establish procedures that will ensure the safety of your employees and clients during the COVID-19 pandemic. But since you’re already going to be revamping office procedures in the short term to comply with your state’s requirements for the current situation, why not also consider implementing permanent protective processes that will prepare your law firm for unexpected disruptions in the long term as well?
Reopening your firm for the short term
Many areas of the country are beginning to slowly reopen, and law firms are typically one of the first types of businesses permitted to open. This means that many lawyers are in the process of making plans to safely reopen their law firms’ doors to the public. If you’ve already started the process, you know that there are a lot of moving parts involved, with your top priority being to keep your employees and clients safe.
Practically speaking, there are a host of different issues you’ll need to think through before allowing your firm’s employees to return to the workplace, ranging from revised scheduling and the provision of safety and cleaning supplies to the implementation of health procedures and the clear communication of new firm-wide policies.
You’ll also need to take steps to minimize physical interaction between law firm employees and your clients as much as possible. These steps will include physical barriers, reducing the number of people in the office, reducing the number of in-person meetings to the extent possible, and installing building upgrades designed to reduce physical contact.
Reopening your firm for the long term
As you get ready for the reopening of your firm, keep both the immediate future and the long term in mind. Because by preparing your firm for whatever may come down the road and enacting pre-emptive protocols along with a strong technology foundation, you’ll be better able maintain business continuity even in the face of a future disruption.
Therefore, as you revise your firm’s physical space in order to prepare for the immediate and safe return of your employees and clients, keep the long term in mind as well. Invest in improvements that will reduce contact points for germs and ensure the safety of your workforce and law firm visitors both from COVID-19 and to better protect employees and visitors in the years to come as well.
With those goals in mind, some improvements to your office space and procedures to consider implementing for both short term and long term safety include:
- Limiting visitors to one office area, and restricting access to the larger workplace
- Installing permanent plexiglass barriers at reception area
- If possible, eliminate cloth fabric seating and use easily cleaned vinyl or leather hard surfaces
- Consider building upgrades, including voice-activated controls (to control lights, for example),
touchless fixtures (such as faucets, paper towel and soap dispensers)
- Install motion-activated doors, lights and fixtures if feasible, and remove non-essential doors or door handles if possible
- Rethink your layout – repurpose large spaces (such as conference rooms) to eliminate shared
workspaces and create distance between tight workspaces
- When possible, designate an entrance and exit to create one-way traffic flow.
Additionally, consider allowing employees who have worked productively from home during quarantine to continue to do so either permanently or for a few days each week. That way you can reduce the number of people in your office at any given time. You also might want to consider reducing your firm’s footprint as well, thus reducing overhead and creating a more lean, efficient business.
Invest in remote technology
Along the same lines, now is a great time to upgrade your firm’s technology. Invest in cloud-based systems like law practice management software that make it possible for all employees to work remotely and have immediate and convenient access to all of your firm’s information.
That way, whether there’s a resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall or another unexpected event down the road, your firm will be fully operational despite the unforeseen circumstance. In other words, by investing in the right software today, not only will you increase your firm’s efficiency and reduce costs, you’ll be better prepared for the future, whatever it may bring.
If you’re not sure what types of cloud-based tools your firm needs, you’re in luck! I’ll do a deep dive into the types of remote software you should consider in next week’s blog post, so make sure to check back then. And in the meantime, make sure to sign up for our upcoming webinar, “How to Safeguard Your Law Firm Against Future Disruption,” where I’ll share my top business continuity tips and advice.