Knowledge Management and Continuity of Work

Information that is critical to the operation of your practice resides not only in your files, but also in your head and in the minds of your staff members.  As part of the planning process, you should create checklists for all important aspects of your practice so that the loss of a key staff member does not, in itself, affect the operation of your firm. The checklists you create will also help to ensure consistency in the work produced by your firm regardless of which staff member has handled the tasks.
The policies and procedures that you will put in place to deal with loss, catastrophic or small, and for the continuity of your practice should be put to paper and placed in a manual that is readily accessible to all staff members. You should keep both electronic and paper versions of this document and it should be kept securely.  Depending on your situation and on how your computer system is set up, you may want to include a list of passwords for all computers, systems and accounts, which you will keep in a safe and secure area and which will be updated regularly.  New staff members should be asked to read the policies manual and all staff members should be advised when the manual has been updated so that they can ensure they are familiar with new policies and procedures.
In addition to a policy and procedures manual, you will need to have other processes in place to protect your practice. The object of your plan is to ensure that your clients' interests are protected in the event that you are not able to work.  Some of the things you can do to reduce the risks to your clients in your absence, especially if you practise alone, are to ensure that:
  • your files are orderly and contain sufficient detail to allow a lawyer who steps into your practice to determine what has been done on the file and what is to be done next;
  • your time and billing entries are current;  and
  • your limitations/reminder system (including back-up systems), and diary system are always up to date.