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Question of the Week: How Can I Protect My Firm’s Data?

Imagine if every computer file at your firm were to suddenly become inaccessible. Would your practice still be able to function? Even if you’re not entirely paperless in today’s technology-based world, there’s no doubt your firm wouldn’t be able to operate at an effective level.

The impact of losing your firm’s data could have disastrous effects on your business, resulting in missed deadlines, unhappy clients, and a potentially tarnished reputation. To prevent this from happening, firms need to take a proactive approach. Planning now will help limit the likelihood of this scenario and let your firm recover fast should it happen.

To protect their data, every firm should be using one powerful tool: a disaster recovery plan (DRP).

Planning Ahead

A disaster recovery plan is a document that addresses what actions would take place if data was lost, damaged, or corrupted. From natural disasters, like a hurricane or earthquake, to a data breach, it’s not improbable for an issue to occur. While putting this together can take some work, it forces the firm to take a hard look at current operations and put procedures in place to prevent a situation where the sole file or data storage has been compromised.

The main point of a disaster recovery plan is to reduce the amount of time where your firm is down and unable to work. Even if you dealt primarily with paper files, you would still need access to your digital records to keep cases moving forward. Lawyers are responsible not only for securely storing clients’ confidential information but for acting in a way that best protects their interests, which extends to reasonable efforts to prevent IT mishaps.  

The American Bar Association highlights the importance of having this plan, citing a need for a clear set of steps. In their Disaster Recovery for Law Firms article, they note, “This may not seem like much, but in times of crisis events transpire at a rate faster than our ability to process them, at least rationally.” Regular backups of your data go a long way to getting you back up and running quickly, but it’s important to have a clearly laid out plan of how that data would be restored.

For example, who should make the decision? Who needs to be contacted to perform the restoration of data and what is their contact information? Having all of these details in one single location creates a plan to follow rather than a panicked flurry of calls and emails once the issue is discovered.

Implementing the strategy

Once you build your disaster recovery strategy, it’s important for essential personnel at the firm to regularly review the document and update as needed. Be sure to print out paper copies of the document as well, as a data issue could mean the loss of all files including your disaster recovery plan. As you put your strategy into place, secure cloud-based storage and backups such as those offered through CosmoLex can be an effective means of easily making sure there are copies of your data.

Thinking about implementing a disaster recovery plan at your firm? Check out our article What Goes Into a Law Firm’s Disaster Recovery Plan for a list of the key items you should address within the plan.

Erica Birstler

Erica Birstler is the Director of Strategic Communications at CosmoLex -- developers of an all-in-one cloud-based legal practice management, billing & trust accounting system specifically designed for solo and small law firms. Erica's degree is in Business Administration and she has nearly a decade of experience in the legal software industry, catering to the specialized technology needs of small to mid-sized law firms. Erica has given numerous presentations across North America on legal technologies such as law practice technology management, cloud computing, and legal billing & trust accounting compliance.