Does My Law Firm In North Carolina Need A Business Continuity Strategy?
Some extreme events can disrupt the regular operations of a legal firm. Natural and man-made disasters such as hurricanes, floods, power failures, earthquakes, arson, robbery, death of a critical law partner, pipe leaks, roof collapse, public unrest, and other unexpected problems can destroy offices, records, or access roads, jeopardize relationships with major clients, or make travel to the law office impossible for employees. Having a Business Continuity Plan for North Carolina Law Firms can prevent significant loss of revenues and clients due to prolonged disruption of law office operations.
Valuable lessons have been learned from a long history of previous events that have disrupted communities and their businesses, schools, governments and professional services. Thousands of catastrophic tornadoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, fires, snow and ice events, power outages, and other events have devastated regions of the United States from coast to coast.
Every year brings new risks of occurrences with the potential to suddenly disable your office operations. A continuity plan affords you and your legal support team the backup resources and resilience necessary to function in the worst of circumstances to serve the essential interests of your clients and your firm.
We’ve all seen the terrible images of losses and shock that these unthinkable disasters can cause for communities. Closest to home, hurricanes have disrupted North Carolina business communities and continue to impact our state’s economy.
From considering outcomes for unprepared businesses and professional offices, we’ve learned that taking the time to provide for basic emergency preparedness can minimize the risk of being unable to be available for your clients and prospects at a critical time.
Benefits of a Business Continuity Plan for a Law Firm
Creating an effective formal continuity plan for keeping a law firm running during a disaster can prevent prolonged disruption that can result in serious loss of revenue or even cause your law practice to lose a major client if the circumstance is not appropriately managed. The financial impact from the disruption of the normal flow of your operations can be minimized.
Having a realistic plan in place can help employees remain calm during the crisis, provide them with the necessary guidance in fulfilling their roles during the period of recovery following a disruptive event.
Not having a practical disaster plan in place can lead to extreme losses of revenues for a legal firm and potentially result in loss of valuable clients, if your firm is unavailable to provide them with services at a time when they need legal services.
What is Involved in Creating a Business Continuity Plan for a Law Firm?
A Business Continuity Plan documents your description of your law firm’s plan for continuing to perform your essential processes if a disaster occurs. The plan would include arrangements for determining the status of employees, office spaces, and information resources. It would also include steps for recovering necessary business processes, and procedures for returning to normal operations. The steps for creating a continuity plan include:
- First, identify the range of possible disasters that could disrupt your legal firm’s regular activities.
- Then, for each possible event, specify the ways that the disaster would impact your operations.
- Identify the disrupted routine tasks and processes in each scenario, and lay out a practical written plan for each, to provide alternative means for your team to perform the functions and operations.
- Communicate your plan to all employees. Answer all questions, and modify the plan afterward to make all needed clarifications and additions to the plan.
- Place the plan in a location that can be accessed remotely, and where all employees can access their copy of the plan (perhaps in a secured Google Docs shared folder, or your cloud storage).
- Identify critical business functions and take preparatory measures to mitigate risks to these essential functions, such as phone communications, meetings, and court appearances with and for major clients.
NOTE: Business Continuity Plans do not need to be uniform. You can tailor your plan to meet your firm’s unique needs, based on your geographic location, your building configuration, your city’s logistical factors, your office systems (paper, or digital, or mixed), and other planning elements specific to your firm’s physical components, operating processes, and involved people.
Meetings, Communications, Research, and Case Preparation
Law firm employees must have a way to communicate by phone and email, and they must have a place to meet and have access to information about contacts, clients’ cases, and other fundamentals to continue performing their work properly during the period while the office cannot be used.
A law firm’s Business Continuity Plan for a legal firm should provide designated temporary meeting and office space, remote access to research data backup files, public records access, and arrangements for alternative transportation.
Components of a Business Continuity Plan
There are various guides for creating a Business Continuity Plan (BCP). For example, the American Bar Association provides an online ABA guide for BCPs. The ABA guide includes standards set by the Department of Homeland Security, built around a framework of these fundamentals for a comprehensive continuity plan:
- Continuity Communications
- Alternate Facilities
- Essential Functions and Processes
- Delegation of Authority
- Order of Succession
Pre-Event Disaster Preparedness for Law Offices
More Recommendations for attorneys preparing continuity plans to include:
- Focus your law firm’s continuity strategy largely on how your team will respond to a disruptive event.
- Conduct disaster training for your staff. Run a practice test of their performance of their responsibilities in their continuity roles. Periodically exercise the plan with your staff.
- Conduct a Risk Assessment and a Business Impact Analysis, to better understand the potential of a given disaster and your plan’s specified operational alternatives in response to it.
- During your team’s preparation, you may consider designating an internal Emergency Management Team (EMT).
Emergency Preparedness Checklist
Use the following checklist to help you identify areas that need work as you begin your program of emergency preparedness:
- Are you and your staff all familiar with your building’s evacuation plan?
- Do you all know where your office suite’s designated exit routes, emergency stairways, medical kits, and fire extinguishers are located?
- Do you have a designated external assembly location for everyone to gather in an emergency event?
- Do you have a list of emergency phone numbers quickly accessible in both printed and electronic versions?
- Do you have a go-kit with office items you will need if you are unable to use your office?
- Do you have a list with contact information for all of your employees, clients, services providers and vendors after your operations are disrupted?
- Do you have remote access to critical client records?
- Have you prioritized your law firm’s operational functions in order of priority in emergencies?
- Do you have technology offsite, to ensure that you can continue working?
- Have you tested your processes for remote access to critical records and for working remotely while your office cannot be used?
- Are your controls and redundant processes sufficient to protect and recover client data, if there is a serious technology failure?
- Do you have a plan for notifying stakeholders and media of a prolonged event and its possible implications?
Parkway Tech, Winston Salem NC
We are a Law Firm Focused IT Company providing IT services in Charlotte NC and the surrounding area. For more information about Business Continuity Plans for law firms, you can search ” Business Continuity Planning Law Firms” or “Business Continuity Strategy Law Firms.” Or, contact Parkway Tech. To make an appointment to discusses Managed IT Services for SC law firms in Charlotte and Raleigh NC, call Parkway Tech at (336) 310-9888 to arrange to speak with an IT specialist about your firm’s unique IT needs.