Sometimes disaster hits members of your team or your office. How you and your team handle it can make a huge difference—you can either add chaos to an already chaotic situation or maintain calm when things go wrong. Regardless of what type of disaster your firm is facing, there are things you can do to keep everyone as productive as they can be.
Here’s what you can do:
You need to know what people would have been working on under normal circumstances to get complete situation awareness of how your firm would have been operating if the disaster were not about to hit. So before a disaster, ask your entire team to provide a detailed list of what they are working on, when it is due, and who else will have to work on it. Of course, you might not always know when business is going to be disrupted. So you might want to gather such information on a daily or at least weekly basis anyway.
Ask your team members to let you know whether they are evacuating and, if so, when and for how long. Find out what internet and phone capabilities they think they will have during that time. If they think they’ll be unavailable, let them off the hook. Give them work that is not time sensitive and does not absolutely require connectivity. If they need research materials or design elements or any other third-party input, provide it to them ahead of time. Also, if they are evacuating and will be on the road or just unable to work, take that into consideration with no judgment and redistribute work away from them. Disasters are incredibly stressful. Having scared, tired or overworked employees who are trying to do it all while their lives are falling apart does you no good and does them no good, so avoid that situation at all costs.
Ensure Access to Materials.
Of course, lawyers can not lose access to their documents and case files. However, documents and resources will no longer be accessible if they are stored in one place and that place loses power. Any materials therefore need to be distributed in redundant and mirrored locations. As I recently wrote, having an external hard drive, a remote server, and a cloud-based system together provides very good redundancy. Examples of such cloud-based platforms are Rocket Matter, Google Drive and Dropbox.
Have Regular Check-Ins.
Each team member has to have the ability to communicate with everyone else. This is a good time to make sure personal email accounts and cell phone numbers are distributed. This ensures people can keep letting each other know how they are doing if work servers also go down. These methods of communication are important so that teams can keep in touch. While getting everyone on the phone at the same time may be difficult, it is helpful for everyone to provide a regular status report via email, text, or voicemail. If someone does not check in, a team leader can shift work around so that it keeps getting done even if the absent team member is having difficulty completing tasks.
Carminati is a trial attorney and litigator, women’s advocate, and founder of Carminati Law PLLC, a distributed law firm. Her practice consists of commercial and business litigation, family law, and mediation. She is licensed in NY, TX, DC and CO. Carminati speaks and writes about gender bias, micro-aggressions and advocacy for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. Her firm leverages technology to maximize productivity and decrease costs while delivering high-quality legal counseling and representation.