10.7 Technology Issues - Knowledge Management and Continuity
Be aware that information critical to the operation of your practice resides not only in files, but also in your head and in the minds of staff. Create checklists for all aspects of your practice so that the loss of an employee or your absence, for any reason, does not, by itself, stop your firm from operating. Further, checklists aid in consistency in the work product regardless of which staff member handles the tasks.
Ensure your policies and procedures address catastrophic loss and continuity in your absence or the absence of staff, in a readily accessible manual. Consider how you would access your passwords for all computers, systems and accounts, and keep this in a safe place and updated regularly. New staff should be asked to read the manual and all staff should be advised when the manual has been updated so that they can make themselves familiar with new policies and procedures. Staff should sign off on new policies and periodically acknowledge their familiarity with all policies and procedures.
If you are a sole practitioner, it may not be sufficient to rely on a policy manual--a manual would not note particular deadlines in a given file. As such, it is important to have orderly files and bring forward limitation dates so that anyone who is asked to step in and monitor your practice (or anyone who must do so in the event of an emergency) knows what has been done on the file and what is to be done next. Use of multiple calendars for important dates will 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 the calendars contain identical information. Use of computerized “bring forward” systems is crucial to ensure deadlines are not missed on files. But you also need to ensure that staff are acting on the matters brought forward and that you, as the lawyer, are responding to these matters.