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IBA: Disaster Recovery Planning Can't Afford to Wait

June 9, 2010

Lawyers are known for giving advice that helps clients plan, but when it comes to planning for a disaster and recovery, legal professionals need to take their own advice and create a plan. All lawyers need to plan for how their firms will cope with natural or man-made disasters ranging from fires and floods to terrorist attacks, hurricanes, chemical explosions or blizzards.

For a law firm, the disaster recovery plan should suit its size, type of practice and locale. And, while it is easy to depend on technology, the human element is the most important part of the plan. That’s because without talented people focused on client needs, a law practice does not exist.

The reason for planning is clear: lawyers need to be able to help themselves so they can help their clients. Just as a firm reaches out to employees by e-mail, cell phone and the firm’s Web site, it should reach out to clients who may be in a state of crisis themselves and welcome the support and reassurance.

Depending on the nature of the emergency — a fire in your building, for example, in which case, your firm may be the only one affected — you still may be expected to meet filing deadlines and court appearances. Under those circumstances reaching out to clients to let them know that you are looking out for them despite the disaster is essential.

If the disaster is more widespread, such as Hurricane Katrina, the floods in the Tennessee or high winds that shut down your building, everyone — attorneys, employees, and clients — may feel the effects. Just accounting for employees and clients may take time.

A firm may want to consider setting up a team to take charge during a disaster. Team members should include management and administrative personnel. The plan should outline contingency operations, how staff will locate each other and how they will communicate with other employees. Having a plan in place will help avoid making reactive decisions. Telling all employees about the plan is key.

For more on disaster recovery planning log on to www.indybar.org or contact Indianapolis Bar Association Executive Director Julie Armstrong at jarmstrong@indybar.org.•

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