Is Your Firm Prepared for Emergencies?

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"When Hurricane Andrew blew away Robert Zinn‘s car dealership in 1992, he decided it was time to put his degree from Cornell Law School to full-time use. Fourteen years later, as the chief operating shareholder of Akerman Senterfitt, he’s still worried about the weather.

"The beginning of the 2006 hurricane season is just weeks away, and Akerman Senterfitt and others in the target zones are gearing up for what some predict will be a ferocious few months.

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"Carlton Fields hopes that it is prepared. Chief Executive Officer Gary Sasso said that the law firm has made significant changes to its disaster recovery plans. The 225-attorney firm has Florida offices in Tampa, Miami, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg.

"It has established what Sasso called a ‘hot site‘ at its Atlanta office. From there, servers will replicate functions in the firm’s other locations should disaster strike. It also has reconfigured its e-mail system so that one office outage does not affect the entire firm’s communication. In addition, the firm has in place satellite phones accessible by firm leaders.

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"Dennis Kennedy, a technology consultant and attorney in St. Louis, said that firms can expect to spend up to 10 percent of their annual budgets on disaster plans.

"’It’s a healthy expenditure in any year that someone takes it on,’ he said.

"More firms, he said, are setting up off-site recovery centers like Akerman Senterfitt’s because they realize that no office is completely immune from calamity, whether from storms or worse.

"’Before 9/11 and the hurricanes, you had these bedrock assumptions that at least your building would still be there,’ he said, adding that now ‘they have the notion that storing data in some secure facility underneath some mountain is beneficial.’"

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