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Posts published in “Disaster Planning”

Be Prepared – Essential Backup Practices for Your Paperless Office By Jim Calloway and Ernie Svenson, ABA TECHSHOW Faculty 2015


ts16-banner728x90borderEverybody appreciates the importance of good backup procedures. But everyone does not implement great backup procedures. Part of the reason is that hard drives today are much more reliable than those of the few generations ago. But the main reason is that because we are all so busy, it is easy for a backup procedure involving a lawyer or law firm staff to be overlooked or delayed.

A convincing argument can be made that good backup receipt procedures are not only a requirement of running a business today, but also an ethical requirement for lawyers. The need for a firm to appropriate backup to protect client data is implied in RPC 1.1, 1.3, and 1.4.

We are both strong believers in the need for a paperless office and digital workflows.

Many lawyers making the transition to paperless today still keep a duplicate paper client file, but there are significant downsides in using a paper file as a backup. These range from the tendency of lawyers to revert to using the paper file and failing to update the digital file to a lawyer relying on paper file at the last minute only to discover that the law firm’s reliance on paperless processes means that the paper file has not been updated and is missing important documents or notes.

Our profession is in a transition from reliance on paper client files and other physical information storage systems to a complete reliance on digital client files and paperless workflow.

An important part of making that transition is absolute rockhard certainty that you will always have access to your digital information when you need it. This means that no law firm should have its future and its client matters protected by only one form of backup. It also means that lawyers and staff should be trained on how to cope with a data loss, temporary inaccessibility of data, loss of power or loss of Internet access. Lawyers must be trained on how to react in the event of such an emergency. (Otherwise you run the risk that a panicked lawyer may fail to recognize that his or her phone or tablet powered by a different Internet service provider can serve as a redundant form of Internet access, for example.)

Backing Up Local Data to the Cloud

When it comes to backups, there is a rigid mantra that all savvy computer consultants know by heart: the only truly reliable backup is an offsite backup.

In other words, while it’s nice to have a backup that you make from your computer to an external hard drive, that’s not truly secure. Why? Well, because whatever physical catastrophe can happen to your local computer will probably affect the local backup as well.

Here are some examples:

  • Fire in your office
  • Tornado that hits your office building
  • Flood that fills your office with standing water.
  • Theft of your computer equipment.

People tend not to think about the theft example, but it happens. Filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola had his computer stolen which had 15 years worth of his movie scripts. He had a local backup on an external hard drive. But when the thieves took his computer, they also stole his external hard drive.

So, again, you want a backup that sends your data offsite so that local catastrophes don’t affect the backup.

In the old days, having an “offsite backup” meant doing a nightly backup and then physically transporting the backup tapes to another location. This took time, was cumbersome, and only allowed for nightly backups to taken offsite. If a disaster happened during the day, all of the new data was going to be lost. Plus if the individual who is transporting the hard drive home loses the drive or has their car stolen, you may find yourself in the position of having to notify all of your clients that there’s been a potential data exposure of their confidential information.

Today, the solution is to use a cloud-based backup service that continuously backs up data as it is being created: immediately and reliably. These services are very affordable, and are the easiest way to reliably backup local data in a way that provides incredible peace of mind.

Among the services that provide these services are:

  • Carbonite
  • Backblaze
  • Crashplan
  • SpiderOak

These services work with any kind of computer—Mac or PC. If you find a service that doesn’t work with both types of computer then consider that a bad sign. The whole point of cloud backup services is to make life easy and if you have to start thinking about what kind of computer you can buy to make them work, then life isn’t going to be as easy.

Some of the online backup services also offer syncing across to other computers. Crashplan offers such services, and so you might want to consider if you not only need backup, but also real time syncing to other computers.

The prices for basic online backup (without syncing) vary slightly, or greatly depending on add-on features you select, but in general expect to pay in the range of $5 to $12 per month for “personal level” features. Most of these services offer a free trial period so you can investigate how they work and decide which one is best for your purposes.

These services offer business class backup, as well personal backup. Maybe you can get away with using the lower-cost personal services, but in general you want to use the business class service if you can afford it.

One feature that the business class services typically provide is centralized administration, which will allow you to be in control of backups happening on the various computers that everyone in your firm is using. You don’t want to have to rely on going around to each computer and physically checking to see if backups are occurring, or to tweak settings if that becomes necessary. And with the business class services you can even backup your local servers if you have that need.

How Many Belts Go With Your Suspenders?

In conclusion, this is really the ultimate question, even if it is worded colloquially. You have a set of data on your computer and your computer network. You understand that you need at least one additional copy of the data, the proverbial data backup.

It is our experience that this functions much better when done on automated, online process rather than relying for an individual in a busy law firm to do it manually. But then what? Just making an image of your computer and save it periodically makes sense? Should you get a portable hard drive and manually make an additional copy of the backup from time to time? Should you get two of those portable hard drives so that one can always be stored off-site?

At some level, this is still a matter for each individual lawyer or law firm to decide. But, it is also fair to say at this point that having no backup is not a rational and responsible decision for your clients for your law practice.

This article is but a taste of what awaits you at the ABA TECHSHOW 2016, March 16-19 at the Hilton Chicago. As a member of the South Carolina Bar, we want you to know that you can get a discount on the ABA TECHSHOW 2016. This discount only applies to registrants that qualify for the Standard registration. You can register online and include this unique discount code:  EP1604 to receive a discount.

Reprinted with Permission. 2015© by the American Bar Association.  All rights reserved.  This information or any or portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.

Special thanks to Catherine Sanders Reach, Director, Law Practice Management Division, Chicago Bar; Jim Calloway, Director of Management Assistance Program, Oklahoma Bar Association, and Ernie Svenson, a nationally recognized speaker, author, litigator, and blogger; for their contributions to this article and permitting us to use this content.

Succession Planning


If you were to become incapacitated or pass away suddenly, do you know today who your back up to your law practice would be? If this is something you have not reflected on, you should think about creating a succession plan. Don’t know where to start? Contact PMAP Director Courtney Kennaday at for more information

Take a Break


Did you know...?
• Employers in the United States are not obligated to offer any paid vacation
• Vacation is mandated by law in many other parts of the world
• Poll: Only 57% of U.S. workers use up all of the vacation days they're entitled to
Credit: CNN Online.

Study after study shows the mental and physical health benefits of taking time off. It seems like common sense to me: if you’re tired and stressed, you’re more likely to make mistakes. On the one hand, a vacation is a chance to recharge your batteries and come back relaxed and with a fresh perspective on your job. On the other hand, you could come back to chaos: piles of unanswered emails and phone messages; crises un-handled, and even clients lost.

If you’re a sole practitioner, the idea of taking any time off probably frightens you. Here’s the perspective of one solo who learned that you can take vacation time, including tips on what you should do before you go. However, the author writes about the help his staff provides. What if you’re it – the only person in the office? Can you do it? Should you do it? Yes and yes. The secret is not only planning, it’s learning to let go and recognizing that you can’t control everything. You can manage it as professionally as possible, but eventually, you’re going to conk out. Working at the Bar, you notice the stories of lawyers passing away suddenly. You know the lawyers who suffered serious health set-backs. Life has a way of teaching us that we aren’t in control. Figuring out a way to take vacations helps us also figure out how to manage our practices better; plus, we learn something about planning for the future and when we're no longer around.

It’s a cliché, but on your deathbed, are you going to think that you should have worked more?

How Good Lawyers Survive


One of my favorite funny movie lines of all time comes from 1956's "Invasion of the Body Snatchers". Our hero is running for his life. His voice-over narration is (deadpan): "I had known fear before, but never fear like that." The understatement cracks me up every time.

I was somehow reminded of this line when reading the introduction of a new book dealing with bad times in law practices.  Lawyers have seen tough times before, but never quite this tough.  How Good Lawyers Survive Bad Times by Sharon Nelson, Jim Calloway and Ross Kodner has just been released by ABA books. Need a pep talk with a heaping helping of practical advice? This book is a 212-page cookbook for making lemonade out of lemons, figuratively speaking. As anyone who has seen these well-known authors and speakers would expect, the advice is delivered with compassion, common sense and a dose of humor. Most of the advice is geared to those in small firms, those recently laid off, and those struggling to find jobs. There are tips on getting clients to pay, finding a new job on the Internet, alternative billing , and resume writing. The last section of the book is devoted solely to using technology to practice better, cheaper and faster than before.  For lawyers experiencing the worst of what the economy has dealt, this book is a lifeline. Purchase your own copy, or check it out from the Bar lending library. Good-Lawyers