Dealing with the Deluge: Flood Resources for Wisconsin Lawyers

By at 13 June, 2008, 2:55 pm

Flooding is affecting attorneys and their clients throughout Wisconsin. The State Bar of Wisconsin has assembled resources for lawyers available here. They have also created the Wisconsin Lawyer’s Flood Assistance Bulletin Board for lawyers who need help and for lawyers who want to help their fellow attorneys. The bulletin Board can be found here and is divided into General Discussion and Affected Areas sections. Affected Areas is further divided into Northern, Central, Southern, Western and Eastern areas covering all of the State’s counties.

To get started, you will need to register using the Register tab here to gain access. Once registered, you have access to all sections of the board.

For attorneys who are concerned that their offices are going to be affected by flood waters, here are some things that you can do:

1)      Protect your electronic data. Bricks and mortar can be rebuilt or replaced, but once your electronic information is gone, IT’S GONE! I recommend that you make an online backup of your most critical data i.e. that data that you absolutely have to have to run your office. This probably consists of your word processing files, time and billing information and your accounting data. Two resources are:

SOS Online Backup (the recent Editors Choice from PC Magazine)  

This service is probably a good choice for technologically adept lawyers and is reasonably priced, but doesn’t provide live support. I’ve reviewed the license agreement and this service and it appears that it provides a reasonable expectation of confidentially for your data. If you select the SOS UltraSafe option, the only person who has the password necessary to decrypt your data is you. CAVEAT: if you lose your password, the company can’t help since they never had it.

They can be contacted through their website or at 877.896.3611

CoreVault

This company provides online data backup services members of a number of state bar associations including Oklahoma. While CoreVault costs somewhat more than SOS Online Backup, but they provide a higher level of service including walking new users through setting up the software and getting started. CAVEAT: You have similar password options for CoreVault as you do with SOS Online, so if you are the only one with the password and you lose it, you will not be able to get your data.

 They can be contacted at sales@corevault.net or 888.265.5818

You can find reviews of other online backup services here. The critical issue is to read the terms of use and establish for yourself that you have a reasonable expectation of privacy and confidentiality.

You should also make backups of your entire computer system(s) using disk imaging software such as Acronis True Image. Make these backups to an external hard drive(s) and take it with you. You can read more about this in my blog post: Don’t be an idiot: backup Your Data . You can find external hard drives at WalMart, Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot and many others at very reasonable prices. The cost of several of these drives and the software to backup your systems are minuscule to the costs of trying to recover data from damaged systems.

2)      If you are evacuating your office, try and take your system with you or at least the server. Other systems should be placed on top of the desks.

3)      Shut down all computers and unplug them.

4)      If you can’t take the computer systems, consider pulling the hard drives and taking them with you.

5)      Active files should be removed from the office, or at least placed as high as possible. Focus on the active files, not the closed files as you can realistically only do so much.

6)      If the issue isn’t your office flooding, but access to your office being cut off, consider signing up for remote access services such as LogMeIn or GoToMyPC . LogMeIn has a free service that allows remote control of your computer, but to get the ability to transfer files, you will need to upgrade to the paid version. However, depending on the size of your files, you can use the free version and email the files to yourself.

7)      Change your voicemail to inform clients and others how to contact you. If the office phone lines go down, find out in advance how you forward calls to another number such as your cell phone.

8)      If your computer has gotten wet, make sure it is shut off and unplugged before trying to move it. If the water was dirty, the interior will need to be cleaned before you try and use it. In any event, the case will need to be removed and the system placed in a low temperature, low humidity environment with constant air movement to dry. For more information you can contact me at floodhelp@wisbar.org . For most attorneys, you will be better off turning this over to a technology company for assistance.

9)      If your paper files get wet, time is CRITICAL. You have about 48 hours before mold and mildew set in once the water recedes. To prevent mold and mildew from growing, files can be placed in plastic bags and placed in the freezer. THIS WILL NOT KILL MOLD AND MILDEW, BUT WILL PREVENT IT FROM GROWING WORSE. If they are dirty or covered with debris, they will need to be rinsed off before freezing. Freezing gives you time to determine how best to try and recover the files. Resources for paper recovery can be found at:

a.      Disaster-Resource.com here

b.      FEMA here

c.      Louisiana Department of Health & Hospitals here

If you aren’t affected, consider helping out your fellow attorneys by allowing them to use your conference room, copier and fax machine, etc. You may consider letting them use unused offices for a short time or even renting them at a reasonable cost. If you have office equipment or furniture that you don’t need, consider making it available to attorneys in need. Post what you can do to help to the Wisconsin Lawyer’s Flood Assistance Bulletin Board under the appropriate area.

Floods are devastating events, but with your assistance, we can help our fellow attorneys get through this disaster.

Categories : Hmmm! | Practice Management | Workplace Issues

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