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I live in Florida. Our disasters are hurricanes. If you live in Kansas, disasters are tornadoes. In California, disasters are earthquakes. Fortunately, it is more likely that the disasters we confront are much less severe � often a result of poor management, planning or follow-through than Mother Nature. Here are five common crises faced by small-firm lawyers, and how to prevent them. 1. Loss of data due to poor data backups. Do not sleep soundly until you know for certain that you have good backups. You must do daily backups, and actually review logs and test restores to be sure there is actually data on the media. Keep copies of valuable data offsite. Make sure that any new applications or folders that contain data are included in the backup. Do a secondary backup (for when the first one fails). Staff compliance is the key � don’t trust this to your lowest-ranking staffer. It should be assigned to you, your office manager or someone you know will do it right every day. 2. Computer failure due to lack of power protection. Without exception, every computer on the network (workstations or servers) should be plugged in to an uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Be sure your UPS has a battery for power in an outage, as well as surge suppression. Even more important than outage issues is the effect brownouts can have on your computer equipment. A UPS will supply extra voltage to your computer equipment when the voltage from the wall falls below a certain level. Power issues can cause component failure, such as bad hard drives, bad motherboards, bad RAM, etc. Having proper protection from electrical issues is like having insurance. You have to do it. Don’t forget to protect all the other things that plug into your network, such as printers, speakers, scanners, hubs, switches, routers, modems, etc. Most laser printers draw too much power to be plugged into the battery backup outlets of a UPS unit, so be sure they are plugged into surge suppression-only outlets. 3. Technology failure due to old equipment/ outdated software. As we become more dependent on technology, it becomes even more critical that you keep your computers and software up to date. There is no question that you will spend more money and make more mistakes if you have to manage technology by crisis. Any computer three years or older should be evaluated for possible replacement. Keep software current. 4. Firm comes to a screeching halt when a longtime employee &# 151; the one who knows everything &# 151; leaves. We lovingly refer to this person as “Shirley.” She is the one who knows everything about your firm; when she is out of the office, you can’t find anything � not even the paper towels. Typically this person is the only one who bills, the only one who writes checks, the only one who knows how you have always done things. How do you get away from this dangerous situation? Create a firm policy book. Yes, that sounds overwhelming. Think of it as the Firm Cookbook � create recipes. Broken down into steps, it can be done. Have key employees carefully document every step they take in accomplishing all important tasks. Include everything from how you want your phones answered to how you want prospective client calls handled, to billing processes, to supply ordering, and everything in between. 5. The solo practitioner dies unexpectedly without any succession planning. Be sure you have made arrangements for someone to take over your practice. For example, Florida requires that an “inventory attorney” be appointed immediately to wrap up firm business and protect the interests of the clients. You just never know when something could happen that makes you unavailable to your clients. It is important for your family, and for your clients, that you plan for the possibility that you become incapacitated. Check with your state bar, and plan ahead so that your family does not have to make these decisions. Remember, death is only one way this could happen � consider if you were seriously injured for a matter of months. OTHER TIPS Here are some additional suggestions to help you survive a crisis:

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