Volume 19, Number 4
June 2002

Why the Plan Went Wrong

By R. Stephen Hansell

Planning for disasters and recovery from them has become a business necessity. But even the best-laid guides can go awry. When planning for recovery from a disaster or crisis situation, consider what could go wrong:

The disaster plan may go wrong if the planner:
o Forgets to keep the plan simple and understandable.
o Fails to communicate the plan details and/or objectives to everyone who needs to know them.
o Fails to implement the plan.
o Takes too long to implement the plan.
o Creates not a plan but a reactive model that fails to anticipate or provide for all possibilities.
o Fails to back up important records.
o Fails to ensure that the data file backup actually works.
o Confirms that the back up works but fails to test and confirm data retrieval.
o Fails to provide secondary back up.
o Fails to keep at least one copy of the backup off premises.
o Saves information essential to recovery but overlooks the physical components needed.
o Gets immersed in details of the plan and forgets its overall mission and objectives.
o Follows the plan rigidly rather than adapting to current developments and practical realities.
o Fails to delegate responsibilities and authority and ends up with insufficient time for client concerns.
o Fails to oversee provisions for client confidentiality and authority and the relevant Rules of Professional Conduct.
o Fails to notify clients, associates, local counsel, courts, administrative agencies, and opposing counsel of the emergency situation and recovery measures.
o Fails to involve casualty and liability insurer(s) and malpractice carrier(s) early and often.
o Tries to accomplish too much at once by expanding the recovery process into an opportunity to remodel the office, for example, or introduces too many changes for staff and contractors to integrate.
o Fails to learn from and adapt to earlier mistakes.
o Fails to correct deficiencies in operations or communications.
o Fails to provide a sufficient rainy-day fund to weather the storm, or makes it through the immediate onslaught but doesn't have the wherewithal to survive the aftermath.
o Involves too many cooks or too many chiefs.
o Restricts thinking and planning to "inside the box" and fails to realize opportunities presented by the occurrence and timing of the crisis.
o Fails to review and update the plan on a regular basis.
o Gets too busy to stay current in file handling, research, marketing, and client contact during the recovery period.

The recovery plan may go wrong if it fails to consider that:
o Some amount of important data may be lost during the recovery process.
o Disasters tend to occur at the worst possible times.
o The planner may not be around to effect or supervise the plan and recovery.
o Disasters may result from an "unexpected" security breach such as hacking, employee theft or malfeasance, industrial sabotage, or terrorism.

The pitfalls seem to be unlimited and almost insurmountable, but professionals must be prepared for worst-case scenarios. The response to crisis is the measure of a professional's mettle.

R. Stephen (Ron) Hansell practices construction, patent, and real estate law and construction arbitration in Missoula, Montana, where he recently relocated after 22 years of practice in Indianapolis.


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