Three Alabama lawyers lost their office to a fire a couple of weeks ago. According to a subsequent article indicating that the fire was of suspicious origin, the security company monitoring the building reported a door alarm and motion detection in one of the lawyers’ offices shortly before a passerby saw the fire erupt from the front windows of the building and called 911. The fire department reported traces of an accelerant on one of the lawyers’ desks. Sadly, the building, including all the lawyers’ paper files, burned to the ground.
Was it random vandalism or a disgruntled client or opposing party? The authorities are still investigating and it may be a while before we know. The point of this entry, though, is that no lawyer ever really believes that something like this will happen to him or her, and very few plan for it. Which makes me worry about all the lawyers out there who are at risk of having to reconstruct all their files and financial data because they don’t have an adequate disaster response plan in place. As the most recent incident proves, it could happen to you, too.
Every law firm should have in place a disaster response plan that will help to protect employees and clients during an incident and safeguard clients afterward by preserving information and getting the firm up and running again as quickly as possible. And the core of any such plan is to manage and back up all the firm’s vital information. There are a couple of things that can help with that.
First, firms should consider digitizing all paper records. (I’ve got lots of information on how to organize a paperless office. Please call me if you’re interested.) Then, they should put in place an adequate system to regularly backup their digital files and store them in a way that an in-office disaster will not destroy them and they can be quickly accessed from a new location with new equipment, if the worst comes to pass. The good news is that there are lots of options for help with this.
The Alabama State Bar offers it’s members a discount on CoreVault, an online backup service. It’s relatively inexpensive on a monthly basis. For a lawyer who’s just lost his or her office, I’m guessing the ability to immediately access all of his or her files would be priceless. CoreVault will be holding a series of webinars in November for lawyers who are interested in learning more about the service and the discount.
Another interesting product I just learned about is the ioSafe SoloPRO, a fireproof and waterproof hard drive designed specifically for disaster recovery in the small firm. Look for a review of this product in a future issue of Law Practice.
Most small businesses never recover from a disaster. Today is the best day I can think of to start putting your own disaster recovery plan in place.