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Law Practice TODAY

The Strongest Links

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

by Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell

October 2005

While the best time to prepare for a disaster is in quiet times before an actual disaster, the sad fact is that after Hurricane Katrina many lawyers and law firms did not have plans in place, or had plans that were overwhelmed by the enormity of the disaster.

Where do you turn for help in a disaster? Was Katrina a sufficient wake-up call for you to start formulating your own disaster recovery plan? What lessons have we learned?

Before 9/11, it seemed safe to assume in disaster recovery that your building would still be standing, especially if it was a skyscraper. Before Hurricane Katrina, it seemed safe to assume that your city would still exist. We now know that good disaster recovery planning requires a serious questioning of all assumptions.

Our friend Ernie Svenson, whose New Orleans firm is trying to get back on its feet, summed up his conclusions succinctly: "My advice to the law firms that haven't set up a disaster recovery plan is to start now."

In this month's column we list some links that will be useful to you, whether you are currently trying to deal with actual disaster recovery and business continuity issues, or you are interested in putting together a disaster recovery plan for the future.

Katrina-Related Efforts

The legal community responded immediately to Katrina, and as a result there are a good number of resources to help lawyers and law firms with disaster recovery in the aftermath of the hurricane. We wanted to highlight just a few of them.

ABA's Hurricane Katrina Disaster Recovery Resources (http://www.abanet.org/katrina/) – Webmaster Fred Faulkner did some exceptional work in putting this site together so quickly. It is a good starting point for anyone affected by Hurricane Katrina; here you’ll find information for victims and their families, lawyers who need assistance, lawyers wanting to volunteer their services, and military personnel needing legal help. The technology resources page (http://www.abanet.org/katrina/technology.html) has a great set of links to disaster recovery resources.

HelpKatrinaLawyers.org – (http://www.helpkatrinalawyers.org) – HelpKatrinaLawyers.org is a mobilization effort among legal technology consultants, vendors and others to provide a clearinghouse for information and actual assistance. As with the ABA site above, you can find a long list of volunteer listings, sign up to volunteer your services, or browse other Katrina relief pages. From the front page: "The best way those of us in the legal technology and practice management community can help is by providing technology guidance. Our volunteers represent legal technology consultants, practice management advisors and vendors of legal products and services across North America."

Ernie the Attorney (http://www.ernietheattorney.net/ernie_the_attorney/) – Ernie made it through the hurricane in New Orleans and his blog consistently points to helpful resources, news and other information useful to lawyers in the Gulf Coast.

General Disaster Planning Resources

Wikipedia on Disaster Recovery Planning (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disaster_Recovery_Plan) – We like the Wikipedia, a volunteer collaborative encyclopedia as a starting point for most topics these days. This page is an excellent entry point into the topic.

Disaster Recovery for Law Firms (http://www.abanet.org/lpm/katrina/disaster_recovery_formbook.pdf)(PDF) – A 30-page excerpt from The Essential Formbook, Volume IV, Comprehensive Management Tools for Lawyers, by Gary Munneke and Anthony Davis, this PDF file provides a useful set of forms and other excellent information.

Managing Practice Interruptions

(http://www.practicepro.ca/practice/Practice_Interruptions_booklet.pdf)(PDF) – Dan Pinnington, a frequent contributor to Law Practice Today, put together this very practical step-by-step procedure for developing and implementing a disaster recovery plan.

University of Toronto's Disaster Recovery Outline (http://www.utoronto.ca/security/documentation/business_continuity/dis_rec_plan.htm) – Excellent, comprehensive outline of issues and considerations.

A Disaster Recovery Checklist (http://www.hp.com/sbso/solutions/legal/expert_insights_disaster_recovery.html) – Rhonda Jenkins provides a great checklist that will be especially useful to smaller firms.

Executive Guide: Risk Management (http://searchcio.techtarget.com/generic/0,295582,sid19_gci1121123,00.html) and Executive Guide: Disaster Recovery Planning (http://searchcio.techtarget.com/general/0,295582,sid19_gci1049698,00.html) – Good overview of issues from the perspective of a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or IT Director.

Disaster Recovery Journal (http://www.drj.com/) “Dedicated to Business Continuity Since 1987,” the DRJ offers a ton of terrific information, all (or most) of it for free. Be sure to check out the Tools area, as well as Disaster Recovery World Online (http://www.drj.com/drworld/content/special.htm), which features a good collection of articles on a variety of disaster recovery topics.

SunGard's White Papers (http://www.availability.sungard.com/Resources/White+Papers/) – SunGard is one of the big companies in disaster recovery. Its website has an extensive collection of white papers on a variety of disaster recovery topics.

Dennis Kennedy's Disaster Recovery Planning Handout from ABA TECHSHOW 2005 (http://www.denniskennedy.com/kennedydisasterrecovery.pdf) – Articles, checklists and lists of resources on a range of disaster recovery planning issues. Note that the audio of the program presented by Dennis Kennedy and John Simek is available for sale (along with recording of other ABA TECHSHOW sessions) at http://www.softconference.com/storefront/250331.

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About the Author

Dennis Kennedy is a technology lawyer, legal technology consultant, and well-known blogger based in St. Louis, Missouri. An award-winning author and frequent speaker, Dennis has written extensively on the technology of electronic discovery and co-authors the "Thinking E-Discovery" column at DiscoveryResources.org. His website and blog are well-regarded resources on legal technology and electronic discovery topics. He is a member of the Council of the ABA's Law Practice Management Section and the Webzine Board.   He podcasts with Tom Mighell about legal technology, with a focus on the Internet, in The Kennedy-Mighell Report.

About the Author

Tom Mighell is Senior Counsel and Litigation Technology Support Coordinator a Cowles & Thompson in Dallas.  He publishes the Internet legal research and technology weblog Inter Alia , and is the current Chair of ABA TECHSHOW 2008.  He and Dennis Kennedy talk about legal technology, with a focus on the Internet, in The Kennedy-Mighell Report .