You do have one, right?
In just the past few days, we’ve heard a few firms volunteer that (a) clients are inquiring about their business continuity plans; (b) they’re dusting their plan off; (c.i.) they’re making sure they have one (or [c.ii.] creating it on the fly); and (d) permutations of these.
Nobody, least of all us, needs to tell you you should have thought of this. (And you can have faith that we’re not shilling you here: Not only are we constitutionally incapable of it, Adam Smith, Esq. doesn’t offer business continuity consulting, at least not beyond telling you you need it. [You need a Document Management System, too–we assume you’ve gotten around to that?])
Awareness of coronavirus has gone from not-measurable at the start of this young year to blanket coverage in the past week:
- Latham cancels global partners’ meeting;
- Coronavirus has law firm leaders pondering a downturn;
- Paul Weiss restricts travel, Orrick postpones partner retreat;
- International law firms respond;
And real money is at stake: For every $100-million of annual revenue your firm generates, losing one entire business day of operations would cost you over $450,000. (Larger and smaller firms, do the multiplication/division for yourselves.) If your continuity plan isn’t up to the task, the price of struggling to respond, or even to continue a semblance of normal operations, speaks for itself. We won’t go into the reputational and legal risk of losing track of sensitive data.
What might the ingredients of such a plan look like?
- If you haven’t already, empower and encourage people to work remotely: One firm we know accelerated, from months away to next week, a pending order to get laptops configured for remote access into the hands of everyone at the firm.
- To the extent people have to collaborate in person at your office, consider opening a temporary secondary location in the same metro area as your key locations and split people up. (Bloomberg LLP is doing this very thing, and they probably have more major offices worldwide than your firm.)
- Back up back up back up back up [your data].
- Take simple, easy, humane steps: Pick up the tab for taxis or Uber for your people who are antsy about mass transit. Make sure you remind everybody to wash their hands and keep their fingers away from their face.
- Distribute the CDC coronavirus guidelines.
But forget all that: Doing all you can to support the professionals and staff who work for you, to provide ongoing reassurance to clients, and to be, to the best of your ability, a genuinely helpful and calming resource to those who might be hit more severely, is your professional and ethical duty.
I was fortunate enough to speak at a conference late last week that brought together leaders of the Bar, BigLaw players, name-brand law school academics, and enormously dedicated Access to Justice warriors (among others), and ample rhetoric was spilled about the special ethical and professional responsibilities of lawyers.
Now, and vis-a-vis the unknowns of coronavirus, might be a good time to step up and “do the right thing,” by your clients and by all those who work in your firm and the many many others who depend on them.