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Disaster-proof your law firm

Nicole BlackAccording the American Bar Association’s 2013 Legal Technology Survey results, 58 percent of lawyers surveyed cited security concerns as the top reason that prevented them from using cloud computing in their law practices.

The problem is, the current file storage arrangement and IT set up of most law firms is anything but secure. Case in point — a Pennsylvania law office that literally went up in smoke last month, when the building in which their firm was located was destroyed in a fire.

As reported in the ABA Journal article about the fire, the building and everything inside of it was destroyed: “(T)hey felt fortunate there was no loss of life and only physical damage to cope with. However, at least one of the buildings appears likely to be a total loss, following a roof collapse. Inside were … documents and legal work that (would) have to be re-created.”

In other words, the firm apparently had no offsite backup for their client files and each and every file would need to be re-created from scratch. Unfortunately, this firm discovered the hard way that the failure to properly back up a law firm’s files offsite in digital format can lead to disastrous results.

Also reported last month by the ABA Journal was the story of another law firm that learned of the perils of failing to have an adequate backup plan. In this case, a North Carolina law firm stored its data on its computers’ hard drives. But, as explained in the article, a computer virus completely disabled the firm’s computers, making all of its files inaccessible: “Attorney Paul Goodson and his staff were unable to access his Charlotte, N.C., law firm’s files after they were locked up by a computer virus … Like other businesses in the city, the firm was targeted via email. Once an attachment was opened, the Crypto Locker virus took over. Thousands of documents stored on his computer were made inaccessible.”

Like many lawyers, Goodsen’s only copy of his firm’s data resided locally. So unfortunately for Goodsen, since the firm’s data had not been backed up offsite, there was no way to access it once the virus had infected his firm’s computers. Goodsen was out of luck.

This wouldn’t have happened if the firm’s data had been backed up to the cloud. Doing so would have created redundancies, which would have allowed him to recover recent copies of his firm’s valuable client data. Offsite data backup would have allowed his firm to conduct business as usual instead of being held hostage by malicious data hackers.

The good news is that many lawyers are beginning to understand the importance of off-site backup as a way to disaster-proof law firm data. In fact, according to the results of a LexisNexis report on cloud computing that was issued in January, 40.5 percent of lawyers using cloud computing services cited disaster recovery and data backup as the impetus behind their decision.

So word to the wise: If a disaster can happen to these law firms, it could happen to yours. Why not take the time to reexamine your law firm’s file storage and data backup policies today to ensure that you’ve got a foolproof disaster backup plan in place? Your clients — and your malpractice carrier — will thank you.

Nicole Black is a director at, a cloud-based law practice management platform. She is also of counsel to Fiandach & Fiandach in Rochester and is a GigaOM Pro analyst. She is the author of the ABA book “Cloud Computing for Lawyers,” coauthors the ABA book “Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier,” and co-authors “Criminal Law in New York,” a West-Thomson treatise. She speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes three legal blogs and can be reached at [email protected]



About Nicole Black