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For two Pennsylvania-based law firms, last week’s massive power outage was the second blackout of the summer. The New York offices of Duane Morris and Reed Smith were left in the dark by Thursday’s blackout, which missed Philadelphia, only one month after One Liberty Place went through a one-day loss of power, shutting down the firms’ Center City offices. Last week’s power outages, which struck large swaths of the northeastern United States and Ontario, had a ripple effect in Philadelphia, since many of the city’s law firms maintain offices in Manhattan and a few New York firms have a presence here. If you want to know what it would take for Duane Morris Chairman Sheldon Bonovitz to ride a public bus, your answer is a blackout that leaves an estimated 50 million people in the dark. On one of his regular visits to the firm’s Manhattan office, located at 44th Street and Lexington Avenue, electrical power went out shortly after 4 p.m. while Bonovitz was meeting with several of his colleagues. The group looked out the window and saw that traffic lights were not functioning and people were streaming onto the streets. Much of the Duane Morris crew, though, kept working without the benefit of lights or air conditioning for more than two hours. That’s when Bonovitz — all the while still sporting one of his trademark bowties — and several of his partners descended 32 flights in a dark, swelteringly hot stairwell with the aid of flashlights. “When we got down to the street, I found it interesting that it was about as chaotic as I’d ever seen Manhattan but at the same time, it was very quiet,” Bonovitz said. Bonovitz decided to leave New York City with a partner who lives in North Jersey and find his way home from there. Easier said than done. They walked toward the Port Authority but had no luck catching a ferry. Things were not looking good until Bonovitz’s colleague saw the bus that he usually takes parked on 39th Street. The driver informed them that she was about to depart for Lincoln Park, N.J., so the pair hopped on board the air-conditioned vehicle. “I thought it would take us two hours with all of the people on the streets, but this driver was amazing,” Bonovitz said. “Passengers were cheering her on. It was kind of like a college football game.” Upon arriving at Lincoln Park, the two were met by the partner’s wife, who drove them to their North Jersey home, where Bonovitz hitched a ride to Philadelphia through a car service the firm uses. It was then safe to take the bowtie off. DARKENED SATELLITES Duane Morris was one of many Philadelphia firms affected by the blackout. Nine of Center City’s 10-largest law firms have offices in Manhattan, while several others have satellites in other affected areas such as North Jersey and upstate New York. Several firms said Friday that they had disaster contingency plans tailored for each office. Many would normally send New York lawyers to a nearby office, such as in Newark, N.J., but that area was also in the dark. Firms such as Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Duane Morris were able to accommodate New York lawyers with pressing matters by making the Princeton office available. Duane Morris and Reed Smith are becoming blackout veterans, as both were victimized last month when One Liberty Place lost power, effectively shutting down the Philadelphia office for the day. Both firms said the Philadelphia blackout was more complicated. In the case of Duane Morris, the Philadelphia office houses the firm’s computer server that is the hub for all of its 20 offices, so the July 7 blackout effectively shut down e-mail communication. Patricia Hiltibidal, who supervises Reed Smith’s computers and facilities, said she thought the Philadelphia blackout was more challenging for the firm’s staff because it occurred at the start of the business day while the New York outage took place toward the end of the day. What Hiltibidal said she thought was more challenging about New York was the transportation nightmare. Some lawyers and staff that lived in North Jersey, Westchester County, Long Island or one of the city’s outer boroughs bunked with co-workers who live in Manhattan. Others made hours-long walks to destinations as far as Brooklyn. Another major issue was communication between with New York office employees. Both land and cell phone service was down Thursday and much of Friday in the New York metropolitan area. And the lack of electricity obviously eliminated e-mail as an option. So this is where the fad of firm-issued PDAs came in handy. Hiltibidal said Reed Smith has an inventory of BlackBerry PIN numbers for its employees, so she was able to communicate with her New York cohorts via text messages to make sure that the computer backup system functioned properly to shut down the equipment and that employees were able to get out of the building safely. Blank Rome executive director Robert Wert said that by Friday he was able to phone his New York colleagues from off-site land lines. And as part of the firm’s emergency plan, lawyers and staff were instructed to listen to a local radio station to find out whether the office was open Friday. Tom Sharbaugh, the managing partner for operations at Morgan Lewis, which, with about 275 lawyers has the largest New York office of any Philadelphia firm, was unavailable for comment. But a firm spokeswoman said that its New York office was closed Friday and that none of its lawyers reported pressing matters that couldn’t be handled from remote locations such as their homes or the Princeton office. A spokeswoman for Dechert said that its 100 lawyers in New York were able to connect to the firm’s Philadelphia-based computer system through remote access. She added that much of the New York computer system was functioning by Friday afternoon though the office remained closed. There are also firms headquartered in the New York area that have satellite offices in Philadelphia. Nixon Peabody has a two-attorney office in Philadelphia, where the lone partner, Craig Trachtenberg, said he was unaffected by the blackout. The reason for that was that Nixon Peabody is based in Rochester, N.Y., which operates on a different power grid than much of the rest of the state. So its computer hub was unaffected, though its Manhattan and Long Island offices remained closed Friday. �BAD LUCK CHARM?’ As for Bonovitz, he was nestled back into the friendly confines of his Philadelphia office Friday. And the way he tells it, his New York partners are not exactly counting the days until his next visit. One of his previous Manhattan excursions was only two days after the Sept. 11 tragedy. Duane Morris had just reopened its New York office that day. But hours after his arrival, there was a bomb scare in the building and all of the firm’s lawyers and staff traveled down those same 32 flights to safety. “[The firm's New York partners] think I’m sort of a bad luck charm,” Bonovitz said. “I don’t think they want to see me anytime soon.”

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