St. Mary's Law Journal


Brenna G. Nava


Hurricane Katrina ravaged the legal system as well as the corporate world by leaving courtrooms and law firms filled with water. In the storm’s aftermath the luckiest law firms were those large enough to have offices in cities other than those directly affected by the hurricane. Many recent disasters have heavily affected the legal system, including flooded basements, office fires, hard drive crashes, terrorist attacks, tornados or earthquakes. And each new disaster brings different consequences. Those who create disaster plans are better equipped to handle and recover from each new series of setbacks. While various firms and courts made plans to mitigate any damage by using technological data storage and emergency planning to reduce the disruption, much was lost in the floodwater. Despite these measures, years later many lawyers continue to struggle with locating crucial information in swampy evidence rooms in criminal courthouses or to find their clients who were relocated to jails unknown. The latest technology offers lawyers the ability to address problems arising in the wake of natural disasters or terrorist attacks. Yet, many law firms hesitate to place confidential information in the hands of third parties such as cloud storage vendors. While many learned the first lesson from Hurricane Katrina, to not leave data backup to chance, many more conducted the cost benefit analysis and determined it is better to have a disaster plan in place than not. Lawyers who do not implement such disaster plans should be held accountable if the factfinder concludes reasonable lawyers would have used technology to devise a disaster and recovery plan. The difference between law firms which survive natural disasters and those which fold depends on whether the lawyers had the foresight to create and implement a disaster plan.


St. Mary's University School of Law