The legal sector began a slow return to normal on October 31, two days after Hurricane Sandy blasted the Northeast.
Courthouses, law firms and schools in Lower Manhattan and New Jersey remained shut down, without power and water in many locations. But elsewhere in the city and region, workers made it to their offices, often without the help of mass transit.
Courts in the Bronx, Queens and most of Brooklyn, N.Y., were operating, although courts in New Jersey remained closed. It was unclear as of the afternoon whether they would reopen on November 1.
Law firms in Midtown Manhattan mainly were up and running, with some attorneys and employees continuing to work remotely because of commuting difficulties.
But some attorneys and staffers in New Jersey, where 2.3 million residents were still without power, welcomed the chance to go into the office. “Most of us don’t have any power, and some of us don’t have water,” said Andrew Joseph, attorney in charge of the Florham Park, N.J., office of Drinker Biddle & Reath. “For some people, it’s a good thing we have a gym with a hot shower.”
The office reopened on October 31 when power was restored at around 5 a.m. About 20 of the firm’s 175 attorneys and staffers came in. Joseph, who lives in Ridgewood, N.J., with his four children under age 13 and his wife, was without power at home.
“I have never seen anything like this,” he said, referring to the downed trees and damage in his neighborhood. “It’s a mess.”
In Washington, the legal community was getting back on track. Federal courts as well as the District of Columbia Superior Court and District of Columbia Court of Appeals resumed full operations after they postponed at least some of their hearings on October 29 and October 30. And many Washington lawyers were back in their offices after two days at home.
Bruce Fried, managing partner of SNR Denton’s Washington office, said Sandy-related problems for his firm’s D.C. outpost were “nothing of import.” Fried said he and his Washington colleagues were working away.
“People are at their desks,” Fried said. “Clients are calling.”
But at least one D.C. law office wasn’t in the clear yet. Foley & Lardner, which was open, nevertheless was keeping an eye on the Potomac River, which runs near the firm’s office in the Georgetown neighborhood. The office had to close in spring 2011 because of flooding.
“The flood crest is later tonight into tomorrow, so that could have an impact,” office managing partner Scott Fredericksen said via email. “We will know more about that later this evening.”
Law schools in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey apparently escaped Hurricane Sandy without major damage, although some were still struggling to cope with a lack of power and transportation shutdowns.
New York University School of Law still had no power and has decided to reopen on November 5. According to a message to students and faculty from dean Anthony Crowell, New York Law School—the closest law school to storm-ravaged southern end of Manhattan—sustained “minimal” physical damage and was being repaired. The school’s dormitory was not damaged, but security guards were monitoring the property in the Tribeca neighborhood. Administrators encouraged students and faculty to use personal email addresses and social media to connect with each other, as the school’s email systems were disrupted by the power outage.
Phones were still out at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, where classes were cancelled due to a lack of power. Administrators told students it was likely that the campus would remain closed through the end of the week. Further uptown, Columbia Law School never lost power in the storm and classes resumed on October 31.
“We’re back on our regular schedule,” said spokeswoman Nancy Goldfarb.
Fordham University School of Law in Manhattan sustained no damage, but cancelled classes due to transportation shutdowns.
Brooklyn Law School remained closed but announced plans to reopen on November 1. The City University of New York School of Law also remained closed.
The situation was more dire in Newark, N.J., where most of the city remained without power. Seton Hall University School of Law and Rutgers University School of Law-Newark cancelled classes through the end of the week. Those campuses were not damaged, but lacked power. At Rutgers University School of Law-Camden, classes were slated to resume on November 1.
Classes were cancelled at Long Island’s Jacob D. Fuschberg Law Center at Touro, although the law library was open to students for much of the day. The Hofstra University Maurice A. Deane School of Law on Long Island also was closed.
Contact Leigh Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff reporters Karen Sloan and Andrew Ramonas contributed to this report.