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Disaster planning for the Apocalypse

You may never get to read this blog entry.

Harold Camping’s revised prediction for the Rapture was this past weekend and the CDC recently issued an Emergency Preparedness and Response guide to use during the zombie apocalypse. These are scary times, between the end of the world and the end of humanity as we know it. For all attorneys, after we have dealt with the obvious questions (such as “Will I survive?”, “Do I want to survive?”, “Is my family safe?”), questions related to our practice will certainly pop up.

These questions will include: “How do I contact clients?” and “Do I have the necessary files to work outside of the office?”  Unfortunately, most of these answers need to be dealt with before the first bite by a member of the walking dead or the beginning of the end of days.

So, if you are reading this blog (and if there are no zombies shuffling through the streets of Maryland and if Harold Camping forgot to carry the one and miscalculated again), please take some time to develop a disaster relief plan. In 2008, the MSBA YLS Disaster Relief Committee created a brochure entitled, “Disaster Relief Plan: Preparing for and Rebuilding Your Practice After a Disaster” and provided the following tips to get started on a comprehensive disaster relief plan. A DRP should have the following:

  • Method of communications and several alternative method of communication for lawyers and staff to contact each other in the event of a disaster. Both a calling plan, which designates who will call whom, and methods of communications should be outlined in the DRP.
  • Disaster Relief Team – assign a Disaster Relief Team (“DRT”) to keep the DRP updated and to initiate the DRP in the event of a disaster. The DRT should include representatives from all functional areas of the law firm, including partners, associates, paralegals, and support staff.
  • Procedure for storage of vital information, including computer software, paper files, computer files, and other information or technology. Further, a successful DRP will also contain a procedure whereby all of the firm’s electronic information will be stored in a separate location and not in the firm.
  • Develop a building evacuation plan, including a location to meet upon the evacuation of all employees and an individual (or individuals) in charge to ensure all employees are present upon evacuation.
  • Post-disaster checklist should be developed to use to coordinate communication and outreach. The information should include the employee’s name, contact information, and the names and contact information for their next of kin. Further, names and contact information of the law firm’s clients and vendors should be included on the list.
  • Keep insurance policies in a safe location, possibly offsite, and routinely evaluate the coverage to ensure it satisfies your firm’s needs.
  • Contact legal colleagues and other potential businesses, before a disaster, to determine whether temporary work space can be provided in the event that your office is destroyed or if work cannot be performed at your office.

While these tips may be of little use to you now (depending on the events of this past weekend), I am hopeful that there still is time to adequately prepare. If so, there are also a bunch of resources from the MSBA and the ABA to assist with preparing for and recovering from a disaster (though they have yet to provide a comprehensive guide to having a law firm survive the zombie apocalypse). Hopefully you will be able to get the plan in place before it is too late.