Developing a plan

Where to Start?

The first step is to understand how your business operates.  Start by asking yourself some basic questions about the way you carry out your work.  The scope of some of the elements of your plan will vary depending on whether you are planning for a one-week absence from your practice, or planning for a catastrophe such as a fire sweeping through your office destroying all of your on-site files. Your plan should be fluid and versatile, and should envisage a number of factors and scenarios. A plan to deal with one type of situation will not be sufficient to deal with all others.  Once you have drafted your plan, you must keep and maintain a copy in a secure off-site location so that it remains intact and accessible.
The planning process starts by performing risk assessments.  As you do this, consider that some risks may be so remote that the only practical way of dealing with them is to purchase insurance against the risk. Other risks may be more common, but their impact on the practice might be negligible.  As part of the planning process, you must analyse the likelihood of the risk and the cost and consequences to the firm of its occurrence. There are some safeguards that will not require much thought, such as installing virus protection software on your computers and establishing a schedule to ensure that the software is always current.
You should be aware of the risks to your practice and how to minimize both the likelihood of these risks occurring and the consequences if they do occur. Assessing risk is an ongoing process.  You should frequently assess whether you are prepared for an emergency and whether your practice is protected from risk.
As part of the process of assessing and planning for risk, there are a number of other things you should do.  Firstly, you should ensure that you have a valid will and that it contains provisions to deal with practice related issues. And certainly, if you are a sole practitioner, but in all other circumstances as well, it is important that you keep your practice and files in good order.  This will help to ensure that your clients' interests will be protected if another lawyer has to step in to your practice.  Have clear bring forward and/or reminder systems.  The use of multiple calendars for important dates, for example, is one way to minimize the risk of missing a deadline if something happens to one copy of your calendar. To be effective, this requires using a diligent entry protocol so duplicate calendars contain identical information. The use of computerized “bring forward” systems is also crucial to ensuring deadlines are not missed.