Developing an Emergency Response Plan for your Law Firm

It’s no secret that powerhouse hurricanes like Irma dominate the headlines, but according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a natural disaster occurs in the U.S. once a week.  Further, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, most businesses, which include legal practices, do not have a disaster response plan and go belly up within 5 years after a cataclysmic event. Natural Disasters can wreak havoc on a law firm’s physical location, but perhaps more catastrophically, the firm’s critical data. It is crucial to have an emergency response plan in place that will enhance employee safety while offering protection against both physical damage and data loss in the event of a natural disaster.

As many of our clients are aware, Needles recently merged with TrialWorks, a major provider of Case Management Software for litigation attorneys.  One of the benefits of our merger was access to the TrialWorks data center to offer hosting services to our client base. TrialWorks is located at the heart of where Hurricane Irma struck in Florida.  During the worst of the storm and subsequent nearly statewide power and internet outage, the TrialWorks data center did not suffer a single second of downtime, nor one moment of non-connectivity.  A Category 4 storm was no match for multiple server redundancies throughout the world and a rock-solid emergency response plan that ensures client data is always safe and secure.

So what can your firm do to protect itself in the event of an emergency?

Even if your firm isn’t in a location at risk for earthquakes, hurricanes and tornadoes — other disastrous events such as floods and fires can occur nearly everywhere. Following are some elements that your firm’s natural disaster response plan should include:

  • Ensure that all your employees know their specific roles in the event of a natural disaster.
  • Create preparedness kits for your staff that include water, food, flashlights and batteries.
  • If you have advance notice of an approaching storm, make sure your employees have sufficient time to evacuate the premises. Develop a communications system to notify and update staff members about emergency procedures, including evacuation and the safe return to the offices once the disaster has passed. Do not require employees to take office equipment and case files with them because injuries can occur.
  • If your building has an administrative office, make sure you know who to reach in case of emergency.
  • Keep any digital or paper copies of your insurance documents in a safe place – ideally offsite — in case your building suffers damages.
  • Make digital backups of all your case information, your case management database, and relevant documents or store all your data on a cloud-based server.
  • Have a list of all your digital technology vendors such as case management software providers.
  • To ensure that your firm will be up and running as soon as possible, equip your attorneys and key support staff members with laptops and tablets that will enable them to work remotely.

No crystal ball exists that can predict whether your firm will be affected by a natural disaster. However, investing some time to develop an emergency response plan can help minimize damages and ensure that your firm is up and running as quickly as possible if a natural disaster occurs.

Both Needles and TrialWorks have systems in place to protect your firm’s data. Please feel free to contact us with any questions about backups, hosting, or emergency preparedness.

 For more information about using our hosting services, please contact Richard or Joe at 410-363-1976 or