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Jean-Frédéric Salès reopened his law office outside Port–au-Prince, Haiti, on Monday — nearly two weeks after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake rocked the city and killed an estimated 100,000 or more people. Salès considers himself lucky — both his house and the law office in the upscale suburb of Pétion-Ville escaped serious damage. The eight attorneys of Cabinet Salès survived the earthquake, as did the firm’s staff. However, some lost family members. Those who could negotiate the debris-strewn streets showed up on Monday to work, regroup and plan for a future that remained uncertain. The future of Haiti’s entire judicial system was very much up in the air, in part because many key buildings were destroyed, Salés said in an e-mail message. He noted that rebuilding Haiti will require a long-term effort, and it’s not yet clear what will be the top priorities during that process. “The impact of the earthquake on law firms in the near future will depend on their type of practice. Litigation will certainly be difficult, given the destruction of buildings housing services of the judiciary in Port-au-Prince, Léogane, Jacmel and Petit-Goave,” he wrote, referring to cities west of Port-au-Prince. “Corporate lawyers should also be impacted given the reduced demand for some of their services.” Still, Haiti’s rebuilding should spur demand for legal services, Salès noted. Haiti’s legal profession is dominated by local law firms; international firms have little if any presence. Cabinet Salès was founded in 1907 to do patent and trademark work. The firm now operates a broad base of practices including tax, corporate law and general litigation. It lists Shell Oil Co., Exxon Mobil Corp., Pfizer Inc. and Bristol-Myers Squibb among its clients.

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