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They call 'em natural disasters for a reason, and years ago, had a hurricane hit your office, many of your files would be completely destroyed. You'd not only have to rebuild your personal life, but you'd have to replace your office, furniture, tech equipment, and try to rebuild your client files, all while continuing to practice law.
While there aren't a lot of things you can do to protect your big heavy desk, or the paper copies of your files, with modern "paperless" and "cloud" technology, your downtime, practice-wise, may only be a few hours or days.
Here are five practical suggestions to help you prepare for a hurricane or major storm:
1. Go Paperless.
If you haven't yet made the switch to paperless, this might be the push you need. Instead of hoisting a dozen boxes of client files into some secure weatherproof vault, scanning those files into your computer, or better yet, the cloud, will save your back and your practice.
2. The Cloud Can Keep You Going.
Speaking of the cloud, if you use a cloud storage provider, such as DropBox, Box, or Bitcasa, then all of your client files will be stored both online and on your computer. Should you lose your laptop to 113mph winds, or if you leave at the last minute to stay with relatives, your files will be a only click or two away.
3. 3G/4G Cellular Data May Be Your Lifeline.
Even if you lose electricity, your battery-powered devices will continue to work for a few hours, giving you plenty of time to notify clients of the potential service outage -- assuming you can find mobile Internet access.
Cellular data may or may not work, depending on whether the storm took out the nearest cell towers. Just one bit of etiquette: There will be a lot of people trying to access safety information or contact relatives. Don't clog up the airwaves by watching movies.
4. Photograph Everything.
Time to put that smartphone to use. Photograph everything, from electronics to office furniture to anything else of value. It'll come in handy if you have to file an insurance claim.
5. Head to the Library -- Law or Otherwise.
This one was a big surprise for me, but after Hurricane Sandy in New York City, one of the most popular places to spend time post-storm was the local library. According to NPR, the branches served as makeshift community response centers, providing meeting space to relief organizations, bathrooms for citizens, and information and help with filing FEMA and other claims.
For you, if you bring a laptop, and you've made the jump to a paperless, cloud-based office, you can potentially continue working, even if your office is drenched. An even better idea is the law library, as it will probably be less crowded and you can take advantage of the free research and other legal resources provided.
Have you braved the wet winds of a tropical storm or hurricane? There's no teacher quite like experience. Share your story and tips with us on Facebook.