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Making the Case for Disaster Recovery in Legal Organizations


A Disaster Recovery Partner Could Be the Safest Bet for Law Firms

Facing the Dire Need for Strong DR Practices in the Legal Industry

IT disruptions happen. Extreme weather, technology failure, or human error can all cause disruptions, but they don’t necessarily have to result in downtime or data loss. Continued client service and guaranteed privacy are priorities in the legal industry, and to enable fast recovery law firms need to have strong disaster recovery (DR) plans in place, FindLaw reported.

Effective DR plans are so critical in the legal industry that the American Bar Association includes “Disaster Recovery for Law Firms” within The Essential Formbook: Comprehensive Management Tools for Lawyers. The document details the need for a repeatable process that covers:

  • Addressing the crisis itself
  • Attending to the needs of those affected
  • Protecting critical resources
  • Client outreach
  • Returning to normal business operations

The kind of data that law firms house is of the most sensitive nature possible: dockets, client files, insurance data, personnel files, and contact information for courts, affiliates, and vendors—it’s not the kind of information that a law firm can afford to compromise.

Consider Hurricane Sandy: according to the ABA Journal, after the storm hit, a number of large East Coast law firms had to close their offices as a result. Many communications had to be rerouted to other locations, personnel were struggling to carry out operations from home, and storm-related contingency procedures were in full effect.

In scenarios where there’s advanced notice of an impending hurricane, law firms could ideally failover to a second site and keep their workloads running in the second location until it’s safe for them to return back to their office and validate that the infrastructure is unharmed. If unharmed, they can fail back easily.

What Are the Risks of Exposure in Legal?

There is no room for negotiation when it comes to disaster recovery planning for legal organizations. In the legal industry, while natural disasters are important to consider, equal attention needs to be given to IT disasters such as network outages or data breaches, which according to LexisNexis, are far more likely to occur.

The legal industry also faces an interesting risk profile because aside from personnel and attorneys themselves, the loss, damage, or destruction of client records is the #1 most dangerously impactful disruption a disaster scenario can cause. This risk can be mitigated by backing up the data and/or sending a copy of the data to an offsite location.

Compliance requirements come in to play here, as well. We mentioned in our recent blog, Navigating Through Compliance Challenges in the Legal Industry, there’s not a regulatory body specific to the legal industry to which all law firms are bound. Rather, PCI and HIPAA commonly come into play, depending on how billing is done, and if a particular firm is storing any kind of ePHI. Beyond that, the compliance requirements a law firm is subject to is dependent upon their clients’ requirements. Consequently, most firms ultimately are required to complete a DR test twice annually. Further, for law firms with a DR practice that includes live replication, encryption is required for files both in transit and at rest, which presents an additional layer of complication in maintaining a strong DR practice, especially if a firm is attempting to tackle DR in-house.

It’s also worth noting that legal organizations face an exceptional challenge when it comes to data storage—they don’t have the luxury of being able to delete data every five to seven years. In the legal industry, all data pertaining to legal cases have to be stored indefinitely, and that’s a massive amount of information to store, encrypt, and replicate.

In the absence of a strong DR practice, a law firm experiencing downtime is subject to all of the standard consequences accompanying loss of data, but most importantly, they’re risking the privacy of their clients if sensitive legal information is exposed.

Impacts Resulting From Loss of Data

  • Can impact case outcomes and have life-changing consequences for clients
  • Causes a loss of revenue from inability to serve clients
  • Diminishes credibility considerably in client trust, resulting in churn

Fees Resulting From Loss of Data

  • Penalties for violated government and industry regulations, depending on client requirements
  • Costs for recovering and repairing lost data
  • Legal costs of meeting internal and external compliance requirements
  • Lost business
  • Litigation costs

If your law firm hasn’t comprehensively reviewed your DR plan recently, there’s no better time. We know that your expertise is in law, not IT, which is why it’s a great idea to consider forming a partnership with a trustworthy DR partner when it comes to protecting your information in disaster scenarios. You can focus on your clients, and we can make sure their information is safe, no matter what happens. If your firm needs to review, improve, or test your DR plan, contact us at www.peak10.com/contact-us or (866) 473-2510 to speak with one of our experts today.

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About Peak 10

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Board Member, Peak 10 + ViaWest