Power Down: Business Continuity Planning for Law Firms

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The derecho that swept from Chicago to Washington DC on Friday, June 29 left millions in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic without power for days. A post in Forbes highlights our increasing reliability on the power grid, and the need for diversification of risk with cloud services to avoid downtime.

Business continuity plans are designed to help a firm respond to any type of disaster, from a hard drive failure to a hurricane.  They incorporate not only technology backup plans, but also illustrate when the plan should be put into action and to what extent. They identify key players, and what to do if those essential personnel aren’t available.

The ABA Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness had BDA Global, LLC prepare a planning guide for law firms to use to create a business continuity plan. Freely available, this  guide includes step by step explanations of what should be in the plan, how to create a plan and includes a sample plan in the appendix. In the foreword former ABA President Steve Zack notes:

Disaster planning is especially important for lawyers. Not only is it necessary to protect, preserve, and in extreme cases rebuild one’s practice or firm, lawyers also have special obligations to their clients. Lawyers must represent the client competently and diligently, safeguard client’s property, and maintain client confidentiality and communications. These obligations are neither excused nor waived following a disaster.

The guide is an excellent resource, as well as the other resources at www.americanbar.org/disaster, in helping law firms plan for the inevitable.

Some Technology Backup Best Practices

  • Maintain geo-redundant backups
  • Regularly do test restores and create written instructions for restoring
  • Keep all software license numbers and installation discs
  • Create images for computers and file servers
  • Keep a local copy of cloud data
  • Consider how data created on mobile devices is backed up
  • Have a current and accurate network diagram

More information regarding computer backups, risk management and disaster recovery are available from the ABA Disaster Planning website on the Resources for Lawyers and Law Firms page.

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