Disaster Planning Series #3: Checklist: Preparing Information for Your Back-Up Attorney

Lawyers Mutual of Kentucky understands the idea of tackling a disaster plan can often feel overwhelming. In this series, we will explore small yet impactful steps attorneys can take each month to begin preparing for the inevitable. Click here for our other installments and more disaster preparedness resources.

Now that you have identified your back-up attorney and executed a written agreement, what information do they need to effectively perform their duties and fill-in for you?

We recommend compiling information on both the administrative and the practice procedures. For solo practitioners, this information can reside in a single document. However, for attorneys that have associates that are not involved in certain administrative tasks, the division can allow the practice procedures to be shared for practice management purposes, not only for disaster preparedness.

  1. Have a thorough and up-to-date administrative procedures manual that includes information on:
    1. Client Information:
      1. How to generate a list of active client files, including client names, addresses, and phone numbers
      2. Where client ledgers are kept
    2. Financial Records:
      1. Where the safe deposit box is located and how to access it
      2. The bank name, address, account signers, and account numbers for all law office bank accounts
      3. The location of all law office bank account records (trust and general)
    3. Management Information:
      1. Contact information for your power of attorney and the executor of your estate
      2. Location of documents related to the ownership of the firm, including leases, a list of utilities, etc.
      3. Where insurance policies are located and names of carriers
      4. Procedures for payroll, if any
      5. List of employee benefit providers, if any (i.e., health insurance, retirement, etc.)
    4. Communications:
      1. Where to find, or who knows about, the computer passwords
      2. How to access email accounts
      3. How to access docket or practice management software, if any
      4. How to access your voice mail (or answering machine) and the access code numbers
      5. Where the post office or other mail service box is located and how to access it.
    5. File Management
      1. Where are files located
      2. Where are the file back-ups located
      3. Contact information for anyone needed for file access
  2. Have a thorough and up-to-date practice procedures manual that includes information on:
    1. How to use the calendaring system
    2. How to check for a conflict of interest
    3. How to use the docket or practice management system
      1. Note: include any contact information for software support or direction to tutorials available from the vendor
    4. How the open/active files are organized
      1. What are the typical subfolders in matters (i.e., client communications, pleadings, research, notes, etc.)
      2. General guidelines for what is saved digitally versus paper copy, etc.
    5. How the closed files are organized and assigned numbers
    6. Where the closed files are kept and how to access them
    7. Where original client documents are kept
    8. The office policy on keeping original client documents

Additionally, for planned absences (parental leave, planned medical procedures, longer than normal travel, etc.) provide your back-up attorney with a case memo for each case discussing:

  • Key facts
  • Deadlines
  • Client contact information
  • Drafts of upcoming work product that is due
  • Any additional relevant information

Stay tuned for more, small yet impactful steps you can take to prepare for the inevitable.