If a pipe bursts and your office is flooded, everything is ruined, who is in charge? Who calls the insurance company? Who is responsible for finding temporary space? Who rearranges appointments? Who supervises all that must be done? Who reassures clients that their files are not lost?
As consultant, our job is to see into the future and to assist our clients in setting up their affairs. Even though we take great care of clients, we often forget to do the same for ourselves.
We forget that crisis can strike us too. My advice: put a plan in place now! Then make sure every employee knows what it is. Give it to every new employee.
If there is a shooting in the waiting room, who is the firm spokesperson to the media. Does everyone else in the firm know to have no comment?
What if a discrimination complaint is filed against the firm? Who is the spokesperson? What will be said? Does everyone else know not to say anything to anyone anywhere?
The crisis is unusual but can destroy a firm when it happens. The wrong statement or no statement can be devastating. A lie or partial truth can ruin years of hard work building a reputation.
Be prepared. Know who you will have to speak to and how to speak to them. A law firm has many publics in a crisis and they all may have to be approached differently. Publics, they are your clients, the judges, attorneys who are your adversaries, attorneys who refer cases to you, physicians treating your clients, social workers’ assisting your clients and more. Each of these is a public and, depending upon the crisis, each may have to be contacted differently.
Don’t take a potential crisis lightly.
Advance planning goes a long way, but even if you did not have a crisis management plan in place and crisis strikes, there are still many things you or a consultant can do to get through the crisis intact. You need to determine the severity of the crisis, how to approach it, and whether outside sources may be needed to help alleviate potential problems. If managed properly, you can get through a crisis while protecting your clients, your firm and your reputation.