In this uncertainties time, disaster preparedness and business continuity planning are of most necessity. From a practice management perspective, it’s imperative to figure out how to convert to telecommuting for employees, continue to serve and support our clients, maintain consistency in operations and protect our health.
No one ever thinks it is going to happen to them. Whether it is a flood, hurricane, tornado, earthquake or a fire, or even a pandemic like we have just witnessed, we tend to think that these disasters happen to other people. But when it happens to you, it can be devastating to your personal and professional lives.
Disaster preparedness in simple terms are measures taken to prepare for and reduce the effects of disasters. That is, to predict and, where possible, prevent disasters, mitigate their impact on vulnerable populations, and respond to and effectively cope with their consequences.
While our current focus is on coronavirus, there will always be unanticipated events outside of your control that have the potential to impact your business.
As such, all firms should have both disaster preparedness and business continuity plan. As you are preparing for potential closures and remote work, you might as well use this to start building your plans now.
Here are some things worth considering that you should ask and steps you should take to get prepared and formulate your plans.
Prioritize: – Let’s take the most extreme scenario first. Say you need to shut your physical office down within days. What do you prioritize? Think about the lifecycle of a client matter. What do you need to ensure that you can continue to meet your clients’ needs if you cannot meet in-person or have access to your office?
Now consider the operational side of your practice. What do you need to do to ensure that your business continues to run despite an office closure?
Start with a list of no more than five areas that you need to address ASAP. Within each category, define specific tasks that you will take to prepare.
Do you have all your client information?
Hopefully, you are using a case management system, to input client information that you can access wherever and whenever. If not, you should be thinking about how to build a list of client contacts should you need to communicate with your clients and do not have access to physical files.
Speaking about Documents
Now, may not be the time to go full-fledged paperless, but you may be able to scan at least some of the most important and active files.
In terms of Communication: –
What Case Management System do you use? As alluded to above, the most helpful tools you should rely upon is a cloud-based case management system. A case management system will allow you to access all your client records in one central location and from remote locations.
Cloud Storage. If you are currently storing documents on a computer hard drive in your office, now might be the time to move to a cloud storage system. Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, One Drive are the more popular ones. They all offer remote access to documents.
In a pinch, you can open up an account, drop your active files into the account and access them from anywhere. For security purposes, ensure that you use strong passwords and turn on two-factor authentication.
Once you prioritize your needs and action items and start to tackle those, you’ll be well on your way toward developing the beginnings of your disaster preparedness and business continuity plan.
Once you can bring your head above water again, revisit your short term plans, review, and determine what else should be included. What did you learn for next time? Can you better document policies and procedures for human resources and administration, case management, technology, and operations? Have you migrated everything to a paperless format and moved to the cloud?
While unanticipated events are never desired, they do present an opportunity for law firms to think in new ways about the future of their practice and make changes accordingly. It is impossible to plan for every situation. But, it is possible to have the tools in your pocket to pivot as necessary to ensure that your business survives even the most challenging of times.