Law Office Computing
Y2K Again—What about your clients?
This month's column is a follow-up to last month's. What's even worse is the fact that I won't promise you I won't keep bugging you about this every month or so because every day I read more alarming news about how many businesses, especially small businesses, are ignoring the problem. It is estimated that 50% of the small businesses in the country are ignoring the very real possibility that their own systems may fail or that their suppliers will not be to deliver essential needs for their enterprise. So I am going to bore you with one of those scorecard examinations. You should take it for your firm and then you should call your clients and go through it with them. If you, and your clients, don't score better than 40 on the following test you have a problem that needs immediate attention. If you score 30 or less you need what is becoming referred to as "triage" in this field as well as emergency medicine.
Testing Your Readiness for Y2K
How does your office stand in regard to the question of readiness for the year 2000? More importantly, how are your clients doing? Commonly referred to as the Y2K bug, the onset of the new century will have pernicious affect on many computer systems. The Y2K problem will affect all of us in varying degrees. I have just run across the following simple testing scheme and I found it to be a very useful little device. It should help you make a quick check of your year 2000 status and give you a reason to contact your clients in order to reassure them of their own safety. Score yourself on the following scale:
5 = Item has been resolved, completely tested, and software installed
4 = Item is in advanced testing phase as of September 1998
3 = Item is in an earlier phase of testing and/or bugs are still being worked out
2 = Item has not been tested and is in an early stage of development
1 = Item has not yet been addressed or is in the process of having a mission statement developed
- Have you installed your Year 2000 update for all nationally supported software programs and applications?
- For custom or locally developed software, have you identified and resolved bugs including not merely the two-digit year (Y2K) problem but also the potential problem with 9/9/99 (sometimes used as an end-of-file marker), and 2/29 2000 the odd leap year for the 21st Century?
- Have you determined that any utility program provided by a commercial vendor, contractor, or other consultant in fact correctly processes date information passed between the utility and your applications?
- Have you coordinated with all of your information suppliers and recipients of your information output to ensure that Year 2000 dates you receive and the output you make are compatible with your system and with your recipients systems in an unambiguous way?
- Have your workstations, operating systems and networks been assessed and tested for Year 2000 compliance including leap year and 9/99/99 problems?
- Have all of your workstations been tested for Year 2000 compliance both at the ROM level as well as operating system software? If you are using Windows 95 have you installed appropriate Year 2000 patches? Or, stand alone operating systems in your office compliant?
- Has all office equipment such as copiers, facsimile machines, postage meters, video equipment, telephone equipment, and time & date stamps been checked and tested for compliance?
- Has building equipment such as elevators, fire alarms, security systems, and any other piece of equipment that relies upon microchips or computers for its functional capability been checked and tested for compliance?
- Have you put in place an internet information retrieval system so you can be up to date on the latest Y2K information? One of the better sites is provided by Microsoft at: http://www.microsoft.co m/technet/topics/year2k/default.htm
Have contingency plans been made in regard to the potential for infrastructure failure such as electricity, gas, water, backup lighting or power and telephone service, as well as potential failure on the part of partners suppliers and other with whom you have critical business relationships? The Wall Street Journal recently had a riveting story of the emergency contingency planning process put in place in Texas to test out the responsive of various community systems. See, The Wall Street Journal Wednesday, October 28, 1998, "The Y2K Problem: New Year's 2000: A Texas City Plans for Pandemonium."
The above test is based in part upon an article that appeared last month in the newsletter for the federal courts Federal Court Management Report (October 1998). The Federal Court Management report is published by the Administrative Office of United States courts, a decidedly careful administrative agency, not known for alarmist reactions. In order to encourage to get your clients involved Congress has jumped into the act with a fairly timid first effort. You can expect more serious stuff in the coming session. The first effort came early last month with the signing of the first Y2K legislation designed to encourage inter-business disclosure of Y2K issues. The Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act, S.2392, preempts state and local rules by providing safe harbors for businesses that engage in certain kinds of Y2K disclosure to business partners concerning Y2K readiness. Many lawyers have had real concerns with respect to possible liability created by these disclosures if the information turns out to be incorrect or misleading. Under The Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act if the response is identified on its face as a Y2K readiness disclosure, the statement itself is not admissible in court for most purposes. You will need to read the Act carefully in order to properly advise your clients. I say again, this is very serious stuff. I do promise that you won't hear more from me about this problem for the rest of the year!!!!.