Your attorneys are prepared every day to advocate for justice when worst-case scenarios occur for clients, but is your firm prepared for a disaster?
Some small and mid-sized firms never recover from catastrophic events, while others have to shut down for weeks or months, experiencing lost revenue, missed clients, and liability when secure information is compromised or inaccessible.
You can protect your firm’s reputation and future by creating a business continuity plan (BCP) to guide the practice through an emergency. Think it could never happen to your firm? Fifteen years ago, a global pandemic might have taken your team completely out of commission with hard-copy files and little remote access to digital client information. Even in 2020, your firm has likely made an active and comprehensive effort to give each attorney access to the information they need digitally to be successful.
Global pandemics weren’t accounted for in most BCP’s before Covid-19, but the rapid transition to remote work and the ability to maintain full functionality without a physical office will be on the forefront of BCP plans from this point forward. From a simple data breach to an office water pipe burst that destroys servers, digital files, and hard copy files, the potential for an unexpected emergency is always present.
Savvy law firms with a focus on strategy and future growth invest the time and resources to create a comprehensive BCP to protect their firm.
Get started by preparing the basics on every legal firm’s BCP checklist:
- Assess your risk: The first step is identify a few potential scenarios and assess the risk and damage they could cause: a fire or flood, a data breach, a partner leaving and taking big clients with them, etc. Once a subset of possible scenarios are determined, it’s easier to plan ahead and ensure that the BCP is comprehensive
- Locate and distribute key contacts: If the network was offline or if the office was inaccessible, is there a way for the members of your team to get in touch with each other? Maintaining a master list of contact information for employees, key clients, and important vendors is vital.
- Define a communications plan: Determining in advance when, how, and with whom your firm shares information in the case of an emergency, along with the types of language you use, allows for quick and thorough responses to occur if an emergency exists. Sharing information first with internal audiences (employees or key vendors), then external contacts (clients), in an organized approach helps to build confidence and demonstrate composure if the situation arises.
- Create ongoing data backup and recovery plans: Developing or starting an ongoing plan to backup data, recover information, and transition critical hard-copy files to secure digital locations can be the single most important precautionary step to keeping your firm in operation during an emergency.
- Identify alternate sites: Pre-pandemic, BCPs included plans for a backup location if the office was compromised, but today ‘alternate sites’ could be the rollout of long term remote work or the combination of key operations moving to a different location with other employees remaining remote.
- Plan to identify and assess damages: Having a plan in place to determine how damage will be assessed, identified, and prioritized can help your firm to move quickly in an emergency. If paper files are damaged, quick action can be key. If insurance policies and claims need to be submitted, a rapid response can help to recover expenses and operations sooner.
- Determine (in advance) who will lead different portions of the plan: Identify individuals to lead certain aspects of a PCP plan ahead of time, making someone responsible for distributing contact lists and someone responsible for sharing internal updates ahead of time. This can free partners and key executives for top level decisions when needed.
While creating a business continuity plan can be tricky with client confidentiality and employees operating remotely, planning ahead for your firm is the best way to eliminate risk and solidify growth regardless of the future landscape.