Disaster Planning Series #1: Back-ups for your Who, What, When
The Western Kentucky Tornadoes serve as an unfortunate reminder of how quickly practices can be drastically impacted. While your practice may be fortunate enough to weather the storm, it is inevitable that life circumstances will impact your practice at some point in your career. Attorneys must have a plan in place in order to pivot quickly in the case of accidents, illness, pandemics, or natural disasters.
Lawyers Mutual of Kentucky understands the idea of tackling a disaster plan can often feel overwhelming. In this new series, we will explore small yet impactful steps attorneys can take each month to begin preparing for the inevitable.
If something unexpected happened to you, who would step in to protect your clients’ interests? Would they know what cases are active? Would they know when your next appearances or deadlines were? This article explores the who, what, when of backing up your firm.
Each attorney should designate a back-up attorney to handle matters in case of an emergency. It is recommended to develop a written agreement to define the scope and duration of the arrangement, including parameters to act on your behalf to close the practice in the event of death, disability, impairment, or incapacity. Our second installment in this series will provide checklists for preparing your agreement with your back-up attorney and language to add to your client engagement letters.
In the meantime, if you have not identified who your back-up would be, make this a priority for the new year. If you have identified your back-up, reach out and set a time to discuss the agreement and confirm it is still a good fit. When determining the best fit, first identify an attorney you trust. Additionally, identify an attorney that:
- has the appropriate qualifications to handle the matters in your practice;
- has the capacity to take on the caseload outlined in the agreement;
- is licensed to practice in Kentucky (and any other jurisdictions you also practice);
- is in good standing with the KBA (and any other applicable jurisdiction);
- is unlikely to have conflicts with you; and,
- has sufficient professional liability insurance.
How would the back-up attorney determine what files are active if you were unavailable? If you utilize a case management or docketing system that only backs-up to a local server, the information could be compromised or lost in a natural disaster. Consult your IT personnel to determine the best option for a secondary back-up. Options for back-ups can range from uploading to a cloud server to routinely printing a docket of all active cases as well as client contact information.
When considering cloud storage options, review the ethical obligations and considerations for cloud computing, here, and watch for future installments addressing cloud computing in disaster planning.
Would the back-up attorney be able to easily identify immediate deadlines, court appearances, or other critical meetings? Maintaining a calendar that backs-up to the cloud is often the best choice for ensuring you or your back-up attorney can meet critical deadlines, even if local servers or case management systems are damaged or destroyed. The calendar can also act as a triage guide when the unexpected has occurred, ensuring the most critical items are addressed first.
Stay tuned for more small yet impactful steps you can take to prepare for the inevitable.