Protecting your practice in the event of a disaster

If there is ever a reason to automate your practice, protecting the business continuity of your firm in the event of a disaster

After securing the safety of your personnel, one of the first issues that will arise in the event of a disaster is one of critical dates and deadlines. A paper tickler or calendar system that has not been duplicated and stored off site will be blown away by a tornado. Paper files with critical client information, documents and contact information may not survive a fire. Card indexes which contain client information and conflicts information may be destroyed by water. And, what about the financial survival of your firm? Keeping time on paper and storing the time records in (paper) client files exposes your firm to a significant loss of revenue in the event of a disaster. Accounts receivable records and work in progress may be lost in a disaster if you are still using a paper system for your client time and billing.

Disaster is never expected and no one is ever prepared for it. But, it happens.

What can you do to minimize, if possible, the impact of a disaster on your practice? First, you must prepare to protect the human element - the most important obligation you have. A written evacuation plan for your office personnel and frequent scheduled and unscheduled evacuation drills may save the lives of your employees in the event of a fire or tornado. Keep emergency exits clear. Maintain emergency equipment and supplies on site. Select a location outside your building for employees to regroup in the event your office has to be evacuated. Provide an opportunity for your staff to receive training in emergency first aid procedures and CPR. Provide all employees a list of emergency numbers.

Have you considered how your practice would survive your death or disability? Have you protected your clients’ interests if such

There are a number of steps that you should take in order to protect the interests of your clients as well as the viability of your practice in the event of your death or disability. Selection of an attorney to serve as your "back-up attorney" and giving him or her appropriate authority (in writing) to act in the event you cannot continue your practice is key for the solo practitioner. Good file organization and an up-to-date calendar system is also key to protecting the interests of your clients. Be sure your trust account procedures are adequate and that you have provided appropriate authorization to allow the back-up attorney to access trust funds, if necessary. This will ensure that clients’ funds can be made available to them in a timely fashion.

There are a number of other issues to be considered in preparing your practice for disaster. For more information, contact TnBar Management Services at (615) 377-1029. In addition, this topic will be discussed at the November 2001 risk management seminars for staff being held in Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville. Registration information is available on TBALink.