Law Firm Learns
Photo courtesy of FEMA
By DON A. CHAMPAGNE & ANDREW BARNES
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active in recorded history. In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made
landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United
States as a Category 5 storm, ultimately
becoming the costliest and one of the five
most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history.
The toll stands at more than 1,800 lives
lost and upwards of $81 billion dollars in
That season also saw Hurricane Rita,
the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the most powerful tropical cyclone observed in the Gulf
of Mexico. Rita made landfall in late
September as a Category 3 storm. New
Orleans had just started the painstaking
recovery process, and evacuated residents
were told to not return home. The already-collapsed levees couldn’t sustain the storm
surge, causing the city major re-flooding.
Rita has made history as the ninth costliest
storm in U.S. history.
Almost three years to the exact date of
Hurricane Katrina’s landfall, Hurricane
Gustav was poised to hit the still-recover-ing city of New Orleans. Hurricane Gustav
formed off the coast of Haiti and caused
unending destruction along its path through
the Gulf, causing the largest evacuation in
U.S. history. More than 2 million people
frantically left their homes to escape the
storm’s path. The storm was responsible
for more than $4.3 billion in damages in
Louisiana alone. In Baton Rouge, La.,
which is approximately 80 miles north-west of New Orleans, wind damage from
Gustav was the worst in history. The town
was completely shut down for days.
The impact of these very active and
devastating hurricane seasons compelled
many companies to review and revise their
business continuity plans in order to pre-
pare for future storms. Below is an actual
account from Deutsch Kerrigan & Stiles
(DK&S) about how Hurricanes Katrina,
Rita, and Gustav shaped their business
Headquartered in New Orleans with
offices in Monroe, La., and Gulfport,
Miss., DK&S is a premier regional law
firm concentrating on legal counseling and
complex, high-stakes litigation. The firm’s
60 counselors and litigators practice in
areas of civil litigation, commercial litigation, construction, labor and employment,
toxic tort and environmental, marine and
energy, and professional liability law.
DK&S’ clients include local, national,
and international businesses, ranging in
size from Fortune 500 companies to small,
emerging businesses. The firm also represents state and local governmental bodies,
non-profit organizations, and individuals.
DK&S is dedicated to providing unwavering counsel to their clients around the
clock – and that includes during major
hurricanes. Our IT infrastructure is critical
to all business activities including drafting, storing, and filing with the courts,
communications with employees, as well
as administrative activities including timekeeping and billing.
After Katrina made landfall in 2005,
both their New Orleans and Gulfport offices
were severely damaged and unusable for
about a month – forcing them to relocate
to another city. The Gulfport office had to
find temporary offices for two years while
the building was being renovated. The firm
lost contact with all of our employees and
clients, and our entire workflow process
was broken. The firm went into immedi-
ate disaster mode to find a new place to
store business-critical documents and files.
Normally these were stored on several
servers, which were both without power.
We began sending our business-critical
files using an online backup, but quickly
learned it could not handle the volume of
documents generated on a daily basis. The
firm generated so much content the remote
copy was never completed by the end of
the night, so it wasn’t even working as a
backup solution. In addition, the firm’s
vital e-mail system needed to be protected.
Post Katrina: The Plan
After Katrina, our entire IT infrastructure needed to be revamped. We constructed an RFP to develop and implement
a business continuity plan that included a
complete technology overhaul.
DK&S determined what personnel
and applications were crucial for business
continuity during a disaster. Through this
process we identified three mission critical
servers that were needed to ensure availability – the e-mail server, file server, and
document management server.
The firm relies heavily on e-mail as its
major form of communication. DK&S has
60 attorneys and 30 paralegals that use
e-mail to communicate with clients on a
daily basis. It also has approximately 30
additional staff personnel who conduct day-to-day business operations using e-mail.
Like most business today, we are completely reliant upon IT infrastructure for
document management and e-mail for internal and external communications. If something broke off access to either resource,
business would essentially cease to operate.