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Recent news articles in a variety of publications and blogs reporting the demise and chaos of the New Orleans legal community following Hurricane Katrina were exaggerated and, frankly, dead wrong. With more attorneys based in New Orleans, and more lawyers in Louisiana than any other law firm, we relocated 145 of our attorneys from our New Orleans office following the devastating storm and resulting floods. But, like the more than 7,500 lawyers practicing in the greater New Orleans area, we were up and running and representing clients from our other office locations within a few days of Katrina’s landfall. As with many Gulf Coast lawyers, we responded, and continue to respond, quickly and creatively to clients’ needs, as they face challenges to their businesses and to their personal lives. With advance planning, firms were relocated and operating within a few days of Katrina. Our firm, like many of our clients, had a well-reasoned disaster recovery plan that was executed with great efficiency. The use of technology was critical in allowing attorneys to work remotely, to move to other office locations seamlessly and to retrieve sensitive and critical documents in a timely manner. We were in the same position as many of our clients, and we pooled our resources, talents and knowledge to restore our systems and businesses quickly, while relocating our families to new communities and our children to new schools. Some of our attorneys and their families have even evacuated a second time with the landfall of Hurricane Rita, coming just weeks after Katrina. Much misinformation Rumors that legal documents were lost and evidence destroyed, reports that property records had washed away in flood waters and speculation about legal communities being decimated generally were greatly exaggerated. But catastrophes like hurricanes Katrina and Rita often lead to misinformation. The reports of widespread looting, lawlessness and other atrocities are now accepted as having been overstated by the media. At a time when lives and communities are so disrupted, this sensational journalism is unnecessary and damaging to the recovery efforts. Contrary to some news reports, we do plan on returning to New Orleans, and we have been advocating on behalf of the region at the local, state and federal levels to ensure that the area and its residents receive the recovery assistance needed to rebuild a region that is critically important to the long-term economic, social and cultural well-being of our entire country. We will switch operations back to New Orleans swiftly and, by doing so, will jump-start other businesses so vital to the greater New Orleans region’s revival. We hope to utilize renaissance plans for the greater New Orleans region that were already on the table and put the task of rebuilding the region’s infrastructure on the fast track. Mayor Ray Nagin, parish presidents and other elected officials throughout the region are pulling together business and community leaders to plan for the rebirth of New Orleans and the surrounding region. As with many cities destroyed in times of war, natural disasters or human destruction, our city will be reborn, revitalized and renewed through the determination, drive, inventiveness and hard work that are so characteristic of our country. Service to Gulf Coast residents The legal community has long been a stable and strong influence in the fabric of life along the Gulf Coast. Championing the legal rights of all citizens in pro bono matters, serving as community leaders to build civic and charitable organizations, creating new legislation to provide remedies to injustices, advocating the rights of citizens in the courts and building the business community through corporate representations have provided the South with a robust economy that provides the nation and the international community with valuable resources. The legal community will be an integral part of restoring this unique and valuable region of the country, and our firm’s attorneys and staff will embrace the challenge of working with other community and business leaders to rebuild the region. Meeting the challenges Yes, many courts are closed for the time being, attorneys are redistributed throughout the region and some court records may need to be reconstructed as the flood waters recede. But the legal profession is all about helping clients solve problems. Katrina posed a serious problem for the region, its lawyers and their clients, but we are working together to solve those problems, rebuilding Gulf Coast communities and bringing our businesses and families home as soon as we can. We look forward to meeting the challenges ahead. William H. Hines is managing partner at New Orleans-based Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carr�re & Den�gre. The firm’s New Orleans attorneys are currently working out of its offices in Baton Rouge, La.; Lafayette, La.; Houston; Miami; and Washington.

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