Getting Up and Running

By Bruce L. Dorner

During your career as an attorney, there will come a time when you’ll be out of work. The cause may be personal injury, heart attack, fire, flood, or other natural disaster. During the time your office is closed, you’ll have an opportunity to ponder what you should have done to prepare. Here are some items you may wish to address in advance of the next unscheduled disaster.

Be sure to have a good working backup of all of your office data. The backup should be stored off-premises and be easily accessible in an emergency. A bank vault does you little good on Sunday, or if electric power is not available. Be sure you know exactly how to restore all or any portion of your data to a new computer.

Have at least one portable computer with a spare battery for those times when your electric power isn’t working. A power converter to charge your portable computer from your car is a definite bonus. Better yet, consider a gasoline-powered generator.

Have a copy of your client database with critical information, including names, phone numbers, and addresses. I prefer a paper print-out for convenience, but others may wish to use a USB thumb drive.

Know exactly where your master computer disks with serial numbers and keys are stored. If you have to purchase a new computer, some of the old programs may not run properly when restored from a backup device.

Have a list of your critical suppliers, vendors, and court contacts to notify of your situation. A PDA can help.

Establish a “buddy system” with a fellow attorney. You keep a copy of that attorney’s critical information, and he or she keeps a copy of your critical data. Take it a step further and agree that both of you will use the same software programs.

Expand on the buddy system and have an agreement that if you are disabled, your buddy will take over during your absence. (See the sidebar “A Solo Needs a Deputy” on page 41.)

Know how to forward phone calls from your office to another location. Even if the phone hardware is damaged, you often can contact the phone company to forward the calls to your home or cell phone.

Be liberal in notifying everyone of your emergency situation: clients, courts, friends, opposing attorneys, colleagues, etc. You’d be amazed at how many will come to your assistance.

If you have support staff, establish a rally point a safe distance away from your office so you can confirm that everyone is accounted for. Staff is your most precious resource. Be sure that they are safe first.

Have a line of credit or other funds available to cover the loss of income and to keep the office running during a short-term disruption. Consider purchasing business interruption insurance.

Bruce L. Dorner is a sole practitioner with a primary office in Londonderry, New Hampshire, and remote offices wherever he finds a place to connect to the Internet. He can be reached at

Copyright 2006

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