Tiffany Farber is a solo practitioner who has been practicing law since 2008. As someone who has been through transition in her career, she understands the challenges lawyers in this situation face.
What would you do if you suddenly couldn’t access your e-mail inbox? This happened to a colleague of mine. She went to log in to her e-mail account, and she was denied access. There was no reason this should have happened, but it did. She had all of her personal e-mails and some client correspondence saved in her inbox, and she couldn’t get to them. She panicked, and rightly so.
There are so many ways we correspond with clients: through the post office; fax; e-mail; administrative assistant. With each medium comes the potential for data loss and compromise, so it is very important that you protect your data. It’s a terrible feeling when you lose something important; it’s an even more terrible feeling when that something belongs to someone else, like a client.
If you use a computer in your practice, and I’m sure that you do, you keep sensitive material on it. You have files saved, e-mails sent and notes about clients. So, what should you do? At the very least, you should back-up your saved information on a separate hard drive every day. You should keep a separate e-mail account for your business, and you can synch the account to a program like Microsoft Outlook as a backup. I would also recommend downloading software that turns documents like e-mails into PDF files. This is a neat little tool, and it can really help you organize your correspondence from clients. Instead of printing every e-mail you receive, you can convert them into files and save them into your client’s folder. Once you have done this, you can burn your client files onto a CD. Once the information is on a CD, you won’t worry about your computer crashing nearly as much.
If you carry a thumb drive with client information on it, guard it closely. While you’re at it, guard your smart phone and computer just as closely. Having your important electronics stolen is much easier than you think. Also, if your phone and your computer are password protected, it is more likely that your clients’ data will be safe.
I would also recommend keeping hard copy files for each of your clients. Technology changes constantly, but the printed word rarely does. I understand that the cost of ink and photocopies can be pricey, but if you lose your electronic data you can always use your hard copy documents to recreate it.
If you are wondering what happened to my friend’s e-mail account, she was eventually able to restore it, but it took her a few weeks before she could do so. Take her story as a lesson. Protect your information now and remove panic from your future.