Business Continuity and Disaster Planning for Law Firms – Part 1

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to surge in some parts of the country, you’re no doubt facing uncertainty regarding how and when to reopen your law firm. You’re also likely wondering about the future of your law firm and its book of business.

One way to abate those concerns is to prioritize preparing your firm for whatever may come. Make sure you’re never caught flat-footed and take steps to ensure business continuity no matter what happens. Why? Because that’s the only way to ensure future success and stability.

The importance of future-proofing your law firm

What are your options when a pandemic occurs or a natural disaster strikes? How do you prepare your law firm so that it can continue operating in the midst of an unexpected crisis like the current pandemic? What steps should you take and what procedures should you put in place to help insulate your firm from uncertainty and ensure business continuity under all feasible circumstances?

These are tough and important questions that every lawyer should be able to answer.  Prior to COVID-19,  you may have thought that this type of disaster was unlikely to happen to your law firm. But now that we’re in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, are you really willing to take that chance again?

After all, the course of the pandemic is unclear for now, and other disasters, such s fires, are not as rare as you might think. Case in point: a fire that broke out a few years ago in a high rise building in downtown Buffalo, New York.

The importance of disaster planning

The fire originated on the 15th floor, which was the location of a law office. According to reports about the fire, confidential client files were strewn onto the street below as a result of the fire itself and the firefighters’ efforts to put out the fire:

“According to the Buffalo fire commissioner, a slew of legal files, some of which may contain private information, are flying around the streets of Buffalo after a fire broke out on the 15th floor of Main Place Tower in Buffalo … The documents are all old case files from closed cases, but could contain sensitive information many customers of (the law firm) might not want prying eyes to see.”

This never would have occurred if the firm had converted their client files to digital format and stored in them in the cloud on servers located off site. Had the firm move to a paperless practice prior the to fire, the fire would have damaged equipment and office supplies, but client confidentiality would not have been compromised and the firm would never have lost access to the case files that were destroyed by the fire.

The importance of business continuity planning

The aftermath of this fire is a great example of one of the most useful benefits of business continuity planning: it allows your firm to quickly and easily get up and running, regardless of the type unexpected disruption you might encounter. As we’ve learned from the current pandemic, it’s impossible to predict when you might lose access to your physical office, whether because of a natural disaster or otherwise. That’s why it’s pivotal to have in place a business continuity plan that includes redundant data backup in the cloud at its foundation.

As we’re all painfully aware these days, disaster can strike at anytime. Whether it’s a pandemic, a fire, a flood, a tornado, or any other type of natural disaster, establishing a business continuity plan ahead of time is imperative. Is your firm ready? If not, there’s no better time than the present.

Start with this post, “Preparing for the Unknown – Disaster Preparedness and Business Continuity Planning for Law Firms,” and then make sure to check back next week for Part 2 of this blog post series where I’ll explain how planning for disaster isn’t just a good idea, it’s an ethical requirement.