Be kind to techies — or else!

Checks and balances is a key element of American democracy … and our economic success. Apparently, San Francisco forgot the lesson … and has paid dearly. This is a lesson that all law firms must learn … and practice … or possibly be guilty of multiple counts of malpractice and violation of Rules of Professional Conduct! It is a basic rule of the Business of Law.

A systems administrator was suspended by the City and County of San Francisco. He was fired for tampering with the very computer system he was hired to maintain.  What the government failed to understand was that this person had the code to get into the network and modify the system. No one else did!  And he refused to provide the code.

Finally, for reasons known only to him, he agreed to release the code … but only to one person, the Mayor of the City of San Francisco. He was on his way out of town to get married … but made a detour to the jail to speak with the administrator…and now become a witness to a crime! He was given the code … and San Francisco can breathe a deep sigh of relief, but not until paying many thousands of dollars to outside consultants in their attempt to break the code and get into their very own system. They couldn’t do it!

Be kind to your I.T. folks, listen to their complaints and suggestions, treat them well … and make sure that there is a redundancy of knowledge in your firm.  Just as you should have multiple back up systems, so, too, should you have multiple people knowledgeable and capable of running your systems. You should not be made a hostage to your own technology.

Years ago, I was delivering a presentation about client relations … During a morning break, one of the participants came up to me and apologized for having to miss the balance of the day. He had just received a phone call that his secretary, whom he had terminated the day before, was in the office and working in the computer system. He left. Talking with him the following day, I learned that she had crashed his entire system and he was having to rebuild from the ground up …. Another lesson surrounding technology:  When terminating someone’s employment, immediately (not tomorrow or the next day!) change passwords and every other mechanism by which the employee might gain access to your sensitive technology — and escort them out the door right away. Don’t allow them to wander the hallways of your office to say good-bye to compatriots. They can do that on their own time, after hours.  You have too much to lose by ignoring employment terrorism that occurs daily. This in not invasive of privacy; this is protection of your commercial rights.

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