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There are few D.C. law firms that have as close roots to New Orleans as Patton Boggs, whose founding family stretches back generations in Louisiana politics. So when firm partners saw the devastation of Hurricane Katrina sweep across the Gulf Coast last week, Patton Boggs offered up its own aid: $10,000 to the American Red Cross and shelter in the firm’s Dallas office to a handful of displaced New Orleans attorneys. “One can’t watch the scenes of devastation in New Orleans and Mississippi without feeling a compelling need to help residents of those places,” Stuart Pape, the firm’s managing partner, wrote in an e-mail to members. The firm was one of many that marshaled their resources to aid victims of the Aug. 29 storm. At the top of the list were Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; Reed Smith; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, each of which donated $100,000 from firm funds. Pepper Hamilton committed $75,000 and Kilpatrick Stockton gave $30,000. Many firms are also pledging to match employee donations, including Hogan & Hartson, Foley & Lardner, and Steptoe & Johnson. And others such as Wiley, Rein & Fielding and Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw are offering pro bono legal services to clients affected by the storm. On a national level, the American Bar Association is gathering manpower for a legal hotline run through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The ABA is also compiling an online database of attorneys who will offer pro bono assistance on everything from insurance claims to contracts. “We now struggle with what we [should] get out there to answer people’s immediate needs,” says Ann Fiegen, staff director for the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division. The Web site also gives law firms the opportunity to sign up to house displaced attorneys. Venable, for one, says it is enlisting. But much of lawyers’ relief efforts are likely to come later, after the water recedes and the thousands of refugees begin to rebuild their lives. “At this point we’re at a higher level of human concerns than what comes next,” says Michael Rogan, managing partner of Skadden’s D.C. office.
Emma Schwartz can be contacted at [email protected]

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