The outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has meant that business continuity planning has shifted into sharp focus for management teams of businesses across all sectors. This has quickly become a very real and imminent threat that firms must address. In order to prepare, firms need to test and optimise their business continuity strategy.
In this blog, we provide practical guidance to law firms around how they should test their Business Continuity Plan (BCP). For clarity, a BCP isn’t just about technology, it’s a firm-wide strategy that incorporates technology, management and operations, which is focused around a detailed risk assessment of potential threats to your firm.
Test for the Worst-Case Scenario
Before you begin, understand the different scenarios in which you would be required to enact your firm’s BCP. This is key as the plan will differ depending on whether it’s an IT infrastructure failure, office shutdown, or other disaster that interrupts your day-to-day work patterns.
Firms must prepare for the worst, and continuously monitor the most relevant, present threats. As a minimum from a technology perspective, we recommend that an annual, all server shut down should be the minimum test you undertake – a half-hearted test will not ensure your firm is protected.
Ensure Your Staff Can Work Remotely
The legal sector has seen a huge shift towards agile working in recent years, with many firms introducing cloud-based technology that allows staff to work more flexibly. However, it’s not just about having the tools – every member of your team needs to understand how to use the technology, and their role in the plan.
For example, does every member of staff know exactly how to log in from home? Are they adhering to company policy, for example taking their laptops home every day? And do they know how to get in touch with each other if a large number of staff are working remotely?
Not only do IT systems need to be tested, but people too. In the event of a disaster, vital time will be lost and the impact on productivity even greater if staff are poorly prepared. Firms need to ensure they have a representative test group – not just lawyers, but support staff and senior management too. The purpose is not only important to build for confidence for the firm, but also for individuals.
Measure How Quickly You Can Return to Business as Usual
When creating your BCP, your firm should have carried out an exercise to determine your Recovery Time Objective (RTO) – this is the amount of time lost that your business can potentially sustain. As part of this analysis, you should be aware of how much downtime costs your firm.
It is important that, during a BC test, you measure how quickly your firm is able to return to ‘business as usual’ – and adapt and test the plan further if necessary. When disaster strikes, being able to easily open and find crucial documents can make the difference between hours and days in terms of lost fees, as well as keeping reputations intact.
Having a robust BCP in place isn’t just about creating a process. Live testing provides the firm and their clients with the assurance that it works in practice, which is particularly important when there’s an active threat. Increasingly, panels and clients are asking for evidence of the plans firms have in place and asking them to demonstrate their ability to prevent, and recover from, disaster.
For more information about ensuring business continuity for your law firm, please get in touch with CTS today.