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.
Both with respect to catastrophic loss and continuity in your absence or the absence of staff, make sure your policies and procedures are detailed in a readily accessible manual. This must include a list of all passwords for all computers, systems, and accounts kept in a safe and secure 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.
In the case of a sole practitioner, it may not be sufficient to rely on a policy manual. Consider that the manual would not note particular deadlines in a given file. As such, it is important to have orderly files and bring-forward or limitation period “tickler” systems that make it clear to anyone who is asked to step in and monitor your practice (or anyone who must do so in the event of an emergency), what has been done on the file and what is to be done next. Use of multiple calendars for important dates (court appearances, filing deadlines, mediations, etc.) 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.