By Dave Poston, Esq., Chief Executive Officer of Poston Communications, and Ioana Good, Vice President of Poston Communications
A business interruption can have a dramatic impact on success or survival. Often, law firms are reactive instead of proactive, making decisions based on fear instead of executing on a tested plan to deal with a crisis. The current COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, while having an impact on all of our lives, provides legal marketers with an opportunity to pull up a seat at the table and lead the way with continuity planning to address business risks and execute on proactive planning to minimize the impact of both the current crisis and those that will come in the future. Business continuity and risk mitigation requires constant attention, analysis and testing because we simply never know what type of crisis we will be faced with. COVID-19 has demonstrated this fact clearly.
"Business continuity and risk mitigation requires constant attention, analysis and testing because we simply never know what type of crisis we will be faced with. COVID-19 has demonstrated this fact clearly."
A good business continuity plan will take all aspects of operations into account. These include but may not be limited to cybersecurity, risk assessments, facilities, internal/external communication, personnel and vendors/suppliers. Bringing all shareholders into the mix is critical to develop a sound plan. Once a plan is developed, it’s imperative that legal marketers and/or industry leaders conduct mock crisis scenarios to test and expose gaps in the plan. As your business changes, so should your continuity planning, cyber security and risk assessment. For example, if you have incorporated outsourced services including cloud-based providers or consultants, how will you react if a crisis impacts these providers and they are not able to provide the same level of service you are accustomed to? Or let’s say your Real Estate Group may experience a bigger slowdown during the crisis, what other groups could forge ahead that you could market?
Below we list some checklists to help legal marketers succeed through a crisis:
Business Continuity Planning:
- If you don’t already have one, assemble a crisis response team and ensure that each member knows their role for preparedness and response planning.
- Create a plan to map out your business strategy to keep the business moving forward despite the crisis.
- Follow the American Bar Association (ABA) standards and develop a clear way to communicate to audiences both on premise and working remotely.
- Meet with each practice group chair and create a list that outlines all the threats and disruptions that can hinder the firm as a whole.
- Identify and realign “what core products will sell” and help management determine potential impact on firm financials using multiple scenarios that impact different service lines.
- Identify sensitive information that could put your firm in jeopardy such as passwords, login information and mission critical information.
- Create a calendar for the firm managing partner, define channels of communication and be the point person with pre-drafted templates for executives to use.
- Create and distribute your internal and employee communications plan and manual.
- Distribute a list of emergency numbers and store them in your plan.
- Find up-to-date, trustworthy information on emergencies from community public health, emergency management and other sources, and standardize distribution of information to all employees.
Risk Management Planning:
- Identify the risk and threats for various business units, such as marketing, financial, intellectual property, technology, legal, compliance and so on.
- Accept and rank overall risk and impact from high to low.
- Develop scenarios for identified risks and run through each to plan how to react.
- Develop a risk mitigation strategy that reduces, limits, controls and/or transfers which can be incorporated into your business continuity plan, addressing legal, prevention, insurance, training, communication and more.
- Create a data breach plan that outlines action steps before the crisis happens.
- Follow the ABA standards and develop a clear way to communicate these guidelines to audiences now that the company is remote.
- Manage risk through insurance, legal and communications counsel and guidance.
- Offer training to ensure your team is prepared to handle a crisis.
- Communicate with your employees early about the importance of cybersecurity.
- In the event of a data breach, meet immediately, provide notification and respond quickly.
- Once you are back up and running, continue to communicate publicly and transparently about what you learned and what you are doing to improve the situation.
- Debrief with your team once the crisis is over, adjusting the plan accordingly.
Having an effective business continuity plan will provide your firm with a well thought out and tested approach to deal with potential business interruptions. Although none of us want to have to execute on a crisis, we have to lead the communication and planning effort to ensure minimal impact when planning becomes action.
Dave Poston is a licensed attorney and chief executive officer of Poston Communications, a national crisis, content and PR agency with offices throughout the United States. With more than 20 years of experience, Dave has held numerous international in-house and agency positions for law and other professional services firms handling international responsibilities from offices in Atlanta, London, New York and San Francisco. He may be reached at email@example.com.
Dave Poston is one of the expert panelists for LMA’s March 26 webinar, “Coronavirus Crisis Communications – The Pivot From Denver to Digital.” Learn more and register today.
Ioana Good serves as vice president at Poston Communications. Ioana has more than 20 years of experience working with law, architecture, construction, engineering and commercial real estate firms on their media relations and business development initiatives. She also serves as the co-chair of the Legal Marketing Association’s Professional Advocacy Group and as a member of the LMA Communications Working Group. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.