What goes into a law firm's disaster recovery plan?

CosmoLex Team

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A disaster recovery plan (a “DRP”) must be flexible enough to address all sorts of disasters that can affect a law firm’s ability to function whether it affects IT infrastructure only, IT infrastructure and the physical premises, the ability of key personnel to provide services to the firm, or the safety of physical premises when occupied by firm personnel.[1] The ABA and most state and local bar associations have disaster recovery resources for attorneys, that include DRP templates.[2][3][4]

A DRP should contain the following items:

  1. A checklist or other description of immediate steps to take in the event of an emergency;[5]
  2. The location and contents of the emergency supplies stored on the firm’s premises;
  3. A list of emergency contacts including first responders, banking contacts, and other key business contacts;
  4. A list of insurance agent contacts so that you can get your business interruption claim started as soon as possible;
  5. A list of employees and their emergency contacts;
  6. Establish how the firm will communicate with clients, the court, staff, lawyers, and vendors after a disaster;
  7. A plan for finding a new premises as well as a plan for how to notify clients of the the new premises (although some businesses plan for employees to work remotely from home rather than renting new premises[6]);
  8. A list of all office supplies, computers, equipment and furniture used by the firm;
  9. A list of key vendors to use to obtain office supplies, computers, IT assistance, equipment, furniture, etc.;
  10. A plan for backing up client lists, calendars, electronic documents and for accessing those backups in the aftermath of a disaster;
  11. A plan for contacting opposing parties and opposing counsel to give them your temporary address (if you’ve relocated) and to reschedule or postpone any upcoming deadlines that will not be met due to the disaster;
  12. A plan to keep some check stock off-site, and a plan to get replacement checks issued as soon as possible.
  13. A plan for restoring electronic data in place that should be tested out periodically to make sure it will still work;
  14. A plan for dealing with water damaged paper records which can deteriorate quickly if not dealt with quickly and properly;
  15. A system for identifying and tracking damaged client records and what happens to them;
  16. FEMA and Red Cross contact information so that you can see if you are eligible for government loans or other assistance; and
  17. A sections stating which personnel are responsible for carrying which sections of the DRP.[6]

After drafting your DRP, you should test it out to make sure that the plan works, and revise any parts that don’t work well.  If you are intimidated by the thought of putting together a DRP on your own, there are disaster recovery as a service (“DRaaS”) providers who can help you to draft and test your DRP.[6]


References

1. How to Create a Law Firm Disaster Recovery Plan
2. Resources for Lawyers & Law Firms
3. Disaster Recovery Planfor Solo Practitioners and Small Law Firms
4. Planning For Reconstituting A Law Office After A Disaster
5. After Disaster Strikes: A Checklist
6. Disaster Recovery: Does Your Small Business Have A Plan?