Y2K: there's still time

November 23, 1999

By now most law firms will have taken all possible steps to become Y2K compliant. While you do not want to overreact, no one can know in advance exactly what will happen to office systems on January 1, 2000. If you are not confident you have done all you can to prepare your firm for Y2K, there are some last-minute, simple steps you can still take, even if you’ve done nothing else.

At this point, you only have time to address the most critical possibilities for your firm. If you follow the suggestions in this notice, you will improve your firm’s ability to carry out key functions and avoid major interruptions in your work.

Client files:
  • Use a paper calendar — keep the paper calendar in addition to your computerized calendar.

  • Create paper To-Do lists, updated daily.

  • Print a client list, with addresses, phone numbers, important dates and conflicts information.

  • Be sure the paper copy of your limitation diary is updated daily.

  • Print a file list.

  • Make a paper copy of your accounting information, including trust records, disbursements, your general accounts, bank deposits and accounts receivable.

  • Obtain printouts of your bank statements before December 31.

Timekeeping and billing:
  • Print out your computerized time records and work-in-progress lists.

  • Keep parallel paper time records.

  • Consider draft billing before December 31.

  • Make backup disks or tapes of all information, verify that the backup data can be retrieved, and store the backups carefully.

  • Plan around early closings or late openings by registries or other organizations on which you depend (e.g. B.C. Online will close at 12:00 noon on December 31).

Office building and equipment:
  • Check with the suppliers of your phone system, security system, fax machine, photocopier and voicemail system — are they Y2K compliant? If not, obtain and install all available Y2K upgrades.

  • If you are not confident that all your building systems are Y2K compliant, arrange to cover your equipment and records to protect them against possible water damage that may result from sprinkler malfunction.

  • Check your computer system — see below.

If you haven’t done anything about your computer system yet …

First: Get a date rollover and basic input/output system (BIOS) evaluation tool. You may wish to try one of the following free tools, advertised by their developers as capable of performing this service:

www.pc.ibm.com/year2000/evaluation.html – IBM's evaluation tool

www.mcAfee.com – McAfee's free Y2K BIOS and software testing tools

www.nstl.com/html/nstl_ymark2000.html – NSTL's free Y2K testing tool

Second: Note that these tools check that the basic computer's hardware will work correctly — you still need to check if the software you use will work correctly after January 1. To do this, acquire a comprehensive software Y2K testing program. Symantec (www.symantec.com) has promoted Norton 2000 (desktop or enterprise versions) as capable of performing this function, as it:

  • identifies, prioritizes, and reports on two-digit date calculation anomalies in spreadsheet cells and formulas, database fields and forms and text;

  • scans all installed applications on a PC and audits them against a database of known Y2K problems. It also indicates where and how to obtain any known patches or fixes;

  • tests the PC's BIOS and reports on its Y2K readiness. It can also fix the BIOS in many cases to bring it up to Y2K requirements.

Check to see that the current version of your accounting system has been verified by the developer as being Y2K compatible. If not, acquire the upgrade (after you have verified your hardware is Y2K compatible), install it and test it. This is a critical application, especially if your limitation and conflict systems are part of your accounting system.

Take it for granted that, unless you have been diligent in obtaining Y2K-compliant software and/or updates from your suppliers, there will be both hardware and software problems and this may mean you will need to replace systems, download patches or take other action. Unless you check, you may find out later that systems, while appearing to run fine, are in fact producing odd results.

The time to do this is now. Once January 1 rolls around, you may find that you are unable to go back and recover data that has disappeared or become corrupt. If that data happens to be your accounting system, you are going to be in for one big New Year’s headache.

Please direct any questions or comments to David Bilinsky, Practice Management Advisor, or Felicia Folk, Practice Standards Advisor, at the Law Society. You may also wish to refer to the Law Society’s April, 1999 Alert! bulletin for helpful Internet references.