This is our Story of Hurricane Sandy

October 31, 2012

It really did not hit us until late Thursday that Sandy was actually coming and could cause some major problems for the company.  First, it could not come at a worse time for Lawline.com. It was hitting on the last 3 days of the deadline for Virginia attorneys. Due to the new live CLE requirements, we had close to 15 live webcasts scheduled during this period.  Not to mention, thousands of attorneys who could potentially watch on-demand courses into the wee hours of the night.  Also, our servers are hosted by Amazon’s AWS platform which is located in Virginia which was also being hit by the storm. We just had issues with AWS the week before when they had a glitch and thousands of websites including ours were down for half a day. So we needed to prepare for it to go down again.  Our server administrator was away on a trip he planned months ago, with no internet access.

Things went into motion on Friday. First we had some of our customer service team bring home phones so they could easily plug them into the internet to answer calls.  The development team sat down and agreed we had to move our servers to the AWS California region, but unfortunately, it is not that same simple process as moving the servers within Virginia.  While we did not plan ahead for the webcasts, we were lucky enough to have someone travel to the office on Sunday to get the equipment needed to live stream the programs from home.  Then another team member walked 5 miles each way on Monday morning so he could get his laptop to moderate the webcasts.  Talk about a dedicated team.

When it became clear on Sunday the transit system was closing down, things moved into high gear.  Luckily, the company has daily 8:30 am huddles, so we just put the huddle online.  We planned a company wide meeting on a Skype group and then broke-out into departmental group chats.

The bigger issue over the weekend was the servers.  We were having multiple challenges moving them across the country.  Luckily, our lead developer did not let that stop him. In between watching his kids at dance recital and doing errands to prepare his family for the storm, he was working on the server move.  Our system adminstrator came back early from his vacation and helped us with the final touches late Sunday night.  We were ready. If the site went down we could have it up in California within 15 minutes.  The company meeting was set for 8:30 am. The equipment was ready to go for live streaming.  Phones were all across the tri-state area to help customers. All of our planning was in place.

On Monday morning, it was quite inspiring watching the team, one by one, sign on to our skype chat.  Everyone chimed in. People were determined. We had our assignments.  There was also a lot of humor. Lots of excitement. We had a cause. We had a mission. We were not going to fail.

The day went without a hitch. We were able to communicate with our customers via phone and email. We were able to do all of our webcasts each with hundreds of people on them and the last one ending at 9pm.

The storm devastated parts of NYC, particularly in lower Manhattan where our office is located.  As of today, there is no power in our building, there is massive flooding, and the the subway is still out.  It is clear that we will not be in the office so fast, but we we all have our roles and will continue to serve our customers.  This has been an eye opening experience on how virtual everything has really become.  While we missed the in-person communication, in some ways we were communicating better as company.

We recently put on our Lawconomy event with over 1000 people attending, and received the most amazing compliment from one of our presenters that can be read here.  We have received several emails from our customers and I have copied one below that really touched me.  We are making a difference. We are here to do great things. This past week has shown nothing will stop us in our cause to change the way people learn.

 

From a Virginia Customer
“It was incredible what Lawline was able to pull off yesterday, from Sunday Oct 28 through Monday Oct 29, during Hurricane Sandy. Lawline was able to conduct live interactive and pre-recorded programming from the New York area to the Northern Virginia area, to enable many lawyers to meet CLE deadlines through a devastating storm. Your customer support members were also on call and provided immediate responses to any inquiries. Thank you and congratulations for an impressive technical and human resources business accomplishment.”

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Author Bio

Written by David Schnurman

David Schnurman is the CEO of Lawline, the leading provider of online Continuing Legal Education (CLE) in the country. The company recently celebrated over 130,000 attorneys on its website with over 2,000,000 courses completed.

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