Wisconsin Lawyer: Inside the Bar: A Wild Ride:

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    Inside the Bar: A Wild Ride

    More than half of the State Bar’s members have been affected by the June floods. Resources are available to recover from the current disaster and to plan ahead for the next one.

    George Brown

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 7, July 2008

    Inside the Bar

    A Wild Ride

    More than half of the State Bar's members have been affected by the June floods. Resources are available to recover from the current disaster and to plan ahead for the next one.

    by George C. Brown,
    State Bar executive director

    George BrownIn June, the rains came and kept on coming, turning the southern half of Wisconsin into one huge water park, complete with slides, wave pools, and even a magic act in the form of a disappearing lake. A water park, alright, with none of the fun and all of the soggy clean up.

    Thus far, 27 counties have been declared federal disaster areas. In those areas, 12,658 State Bar members live or work. These members represent 55 percent of the total State Bar membership and 81 percent of the lawyers who live and work in Wisconsin. More than 4,000 of these members live or work outside Milwaukee and Dane counties.

    Many of these lawyers have been affected by the flooding in some way: basements flooded, files damaged or ruined, offices abandoned for dry quarters, commute time lengthened - that is if a safe route could be found.

    As the waters rose, the State Bar emailed 11,385 members to offer assistance if they were affected by the flooding; and emailed other members with information how they could volunteer to help their colleagues and the public recover from the floods. The State Bar's Practice411TM practice assistance program advised members about what they could do to prevent further damage to documents from mold, how to recover information from water soaked computers, and how they might communicate with clients. As a result of that advice, some law firms have used their Web sites to keep clients updated about office location, contact information, and the timetable for recovery.

    Now, while the clean up continues, is the time to plan for the next disaster, because it surely will come. The State Bar offers you resources to begin that planning process. On WisBar, you will find disaster planning articles published in this magazine, including guides for preparing disaster recovery plans, tips for recovering damaged records, and computer management practices that will protect you and your clients should a disaster strike. You'll also find links to general disaster assistance information, including legal assistance for the public.

    Disaster can take many forms: flood, tornado, massive snowfall, broken water pipes, sudden illness. Disaster can be anything unexpected that keeps us out of our offices and prevents us from serving our clients.

    Begin the disaster planning process now. Use the resources at www.wisbar.org/disaster. Take a copy of the plan home, because if you depend on the plan that you have securely stored on your office computer, you'll have a tough time accessing it if the power grid goes down or the waters rise.