Wisconsin Lawyer: Disaster Planning is Good Practice:

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    Disaster Planning is Good Practice

    Most of us need to do our disaster planning in small steps; such planning is just too overwhelming to take on all at once. (Of course, if you are not a procrastinator and can scratch a project from your "to do" list in one swoop, be my guest.) The rest of us should start by thoughtfully considering our everyday procedures, with a view to what we would need most if the worst were to happen.

    Sally E. Anderson

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 5, May 2008

    Disaster Planning is Good Practice

    by Sally E. Anderson

    Most of us need to do our disaster planning in small steps; such planning is just too overwhelming to take on all at once. (Of course, if you are not a procrastinator and can scratch a project from your "to do" list in one swoop, be my guest.) The rest of us should start by thoughtfully considering our everyday procedures, with a view to what we would need most if the worst were to happen.

    Make a concerted effort to keep files organized, up to date, properly stored (not on the floor), and backed up. (How often you back up files depends on how much data you can afford to lose.) Back up laptops, phones, and other electronic devices, too.

    While you are in the backup mode, remember that magnetic storage media degrades over time, so retire your tapes or disks before that occurs. Also, be sure backups are stored off site.

    Follow your file retention policy. Destroy files per schedule. Make it a practice never to keep original client documents. Copy or scan those promptly and return them to your client. This is just one less thing to worry about.

    Keep your servers secured and safe, too: in a windowless room, away from water pipes, radiators and other hazards, and off the floor. Ditto for your office safe.

    Sally Anderson

    Sally E. Anderson, Marquette 1979, is vice president - claims at Wisconsin Lawyers Mutual Insurance Co., Madison.

    Know what you have so you can figure out what you will need. To do this, create a comprehensive current inventory. List firm assets and update the list whenever assets change. Include computers and all equipment, software, library contents and subscriptions, furniture, and personal property. Your list should contain any information that would be helpful in restoring your office or making an insurance claim: a model number with serial number; purchase price; date and location of purchase; and any agreement that might apply (lease or warranty). Keep your computer licenses and security up to date.

    Decide which of your business documents to scan or copy for back up and offsite storage. If your office is destroyed, you will need copies of leases, banking agreements, and insurance policies. (Have you considered insurance coverage for business interruption, extra expense, valuable papers, or accounts receivable?) For each of these records, include a contact person's or agent's name, contact information, and, for insurance policies, instructions for filing claims.

    Decide which records have the highest priority. These probably include your calendar, client lists with current addresses and contact information, billing and accounts payable information, office forms or research files, and clerk of courts' numbers for cases in suit. If these records are not already available on your backups, arrange to include them. Next, what kinds of files are less vital? Those may include closed files of all sorts.

    A written plan is invaluable, but only if you update it regularly. Include the vital statistics mentioned above, a list of supplies you will need (make a "survival box"), and home and cell phone contact information for your "office - indispensable" parties and an emergency contact for each. Include directions on where to meet if a disaster occurs during office hours and where you will temporarily set up office. Regularly test your plan.

    Everyday awareness that a disaster really could happen to you will help you plan. Being prepared will help you to fulfill your responsibilities and resume your life should disaster find you.




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