Although it’s impossible to predict the unexpected, it’s essential to know just how your law firm will react and respond in the event of numerous issues. This is precisely what a law firm disaster plan is for. How you adapt to these unexpected, disastrous events can often mean the difference between continuing work with some disruption, or potentially closing your business and leaving clients on their own. Not considering a law firm disaster recovery plan and being ill-prepared for emergencies can also leave your data, networks and employees at risk.
Law firms need to have a disaster recovery plan in place so that, should the unexpected happen, you can get back to work as easily and quickly as possible, as well as with as little loss of data, business and time following such an unexpected event. Recognising that, as a law firm, you are at risk of more than just cyber attacks can help when designing your law firm recovery plan – things such as power outages, equipment failures and even natural disasters all need to be considered.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at how best to formulate a disaster recovery plan for your law firm.
What should a disaster recovery plan for a law firm include?
Although we always hope for the best, the fact is that sometimes unexpected circumstances do occur. An effective disaster recovery plan for a law firm doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should meet the obligations of your firm, and be thorough and up-to-date. It should form a step-by-step document which is well thought out, be in written form and regularly revised for updates. A disaster recovery plan for your law firm should provide a defined guide on how your firm can resume operations, keep client data protected and be easily communicated to employees.
A law firm disaster recovery plan should also cover fundamental topics. You may wish to set out a clear list of priorities so that, should disaster strike, the most important things are taken care of first. Your plan should consider factors such as:
- Employees and staff
- Resumption of the business
Crucial steps to creating your law firm disaster recovery plan
The goal of a disaster recovery plan for your law firm is to recover your firm as quickly as possible in the event of a disaster, as well as your recovery and protection of client’s data. This means that the plan should allow you to take action as soon as a disaster occurs or is identified. There are some steps which should be included within your law firm disaster recovery plan to ensure the protection of your business and your client’s sensitive data.
Carry out inventory
Ideally, you should always know or be aware of exactly what your law firm has, physically and digitally, so that anyone following your law firm’s disaster recovery plan knows what needs to be recovered or potentially replaced. This can include:
- Software – make a note of the software that your firm uses. Do you hold any licenses for this software? What passwords are needed to access them?
- Hardware – this is particularly important if you have a remote team. You should know how many devices such as computers or laptops you have, as well as servers and other physical items. You should also make note of where these are located.
- Client files – as a law firm, you will likely have copious amounts of client files, both historical and present. In the event of a disaster, there should be an inventory of these files so that they can be safely recovered.
Identify any critical services or systems
You should also group each type of information together into the below categories when putting together your law firm disaster recovery plan:
Any important or sensitive client data or information which is located within a single network or server, or where no backup is available, should be considered critical.
Systems, information or data which is important to clients or which may affect the potential outcome of an upcoming case, but which could be recovered, for example with a file or data backup, should be viewed as medium.
Items which are in the low category are ones which can easily be replaced in the event of a disaster, or that are easily recoverable through backups.
Define your recovery objectives
When building a disaster recovery plan for your law firm, you should be determining how long you can, reasonably, be without services or applications that are accounted for within your inventory and plan following a disaster. For each one identified, you should determine your Recovery Time Objective (RTO), which is the acceptable length of time in which your systems and/or data can be unavailable, and your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which is the acceptable level of data in which your law firm can afford to lose. Knowing these can really help streamline the implementation of your disaster plan in the event that it is needed.
Testing your plan
Creating a disaster recovery plan for your law firm is no use if you don’t test what you wish to implement. This is perhaps the only way that you can be certain your employees will have everything they need in order to mitigate risk following a disaster and keep your clients protected. It’s best to test your law firm’s disaster recovery plan at a time when it won’t interfere with any programmes or day-to-day tasks during the week.
During the first test, you will, undoubtedly, run into some issues or items that haven’t been addressed and this is the single, largest benefit of testing your plan. You can then amend and change parts as necessary so that, in the event of a disaster, there is nothing missing that you might perhaps expect to be there, but forgot.
Once you are certain and confident that your disaster recovery plan is optimised and running as expected, you should look to carry out routine tests at least once per year, or whenever changes or alterations to your plan are made.
Identify supporting tools
In order to further strengthen your disaster recovery plan for your law firm, you should also look to identify further supporting tools or processes to build upon your recovery processes. This could include implementing a proactive cybersecurity strategy, ensuring that all aspects of your cybersecurity concerns are met and covered, or even just a tool that carries out regular data backup. Finding tools and processes that only strengthen your cyber security and disaster recovery plan creates a more rounded plan and approach and only serves as a benefit.
When it comes to business cyber protection, so many law firms only consider things such as cyber security and data breaches. Preparing a disaster response plan for your law firm will cover and protect your firm further in the event of the unexpected. For more information on how best to prepare for the unexpected, or to talk more about cyber security for your law firm, contact CYFOR Secure today!