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No one at Fisher & Phillips has seen what Hurricane Katrina did to its New Orleans office. But Roger K. Quillen, the managing partner of the Atlanta-based firm, received some indication from photographs of the nearby Hyatt Regency that showed scores of shattered windows with curtains fluttering in the wind. Quillen said he learned Tuesday that the office, on the 37th floor of a building in the city’s flooded central business district, will stay closed until at least Sept. 15. Quillen added that the labor and employment firm’s immediate goal is helping its 28 New Orleans attorneys and staffers live and work as best they can during a prolonged absence from home. The New Orleans employees were choosing temporary offices at Fisher & Phillips’ 15 other locations around the country, where attorneys have offered rooms in their homes as free lodging. Employees learned how to obtain remote access to the firm’s electronic files. E-mail service was restored, clients were contacted, and informal office donation drives were organized. “Our lawyers, of course, are extremely concerned that they’re servicing client needs,” Quillen said. “We are confident we can.” Fisher & Phillips is one of several firms that has Atlanta offices as well as offices in cities where Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc. Balch & Bingham has an 18-lawyer office in Gulfport, Miss., which suffered — according to a fire chief quoted in national news reports — “complete devastation.” The Gulfport office, according to the firm’s Web site, offers a full array of legal services plus specialized environmental, international commerce, gaming and labor matters. Balch & Bingham was awaiting news about its Gulfport office, said Nora Yardley, a spokeswoman for the firm in Birmingham, Ala. “It is too early to tell about damage,” Yardley said. News photos showed nearby buildings still standing in Gulfport, she said, but some of those structures are newer than the firm’s “very old” building. Power outages prompted Miller, Hamilton, Snider & Odom to relocate temporarily some of the roughly 30 attorneys in its Mobile, Ala., office, said Timothy W. Boyd, managing partner of the firm’s Atlanta office. Miller, Hamilton’s offices in Birmingham and Montgomery weathered the storm without major problems, Boyd added. Representatives of the firms said they hoped that high-tech communications and data storage, along with emergency planning, would help reduce the disruption that the storm causes to their practices. Michael J. Powell, managing shareholder of the Atlanta office of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, said Tuesday that his firm doesn’t know the extent of damage to its two New Orleans-area offices or its Jackson, Miss., office. The three offices employ 96 lawyers, he said. Powell said the displaced attorneys are moving to offices in Memphis, Tenn., and Atlanta and maintaining contact with clients. In the meantime, the firm’s internal Web site has become an indispensable help for employees trying to contact one another or find reassurance that a friend is safe. “Our intranet is tremendous,” Powell said. Quillen and Powell said their firms had backed up electronic versions of files before the storm arrived, meaning displaced attorneys can continue working. Both firms also activated their disaster response plans to help shift employees and work to officers outside the storm’s path. Baker Donelson spokesman David Yawn said the firm’s response plan includes phone hotlines where employees can check in and receive the latest information from their offices. Quillen said heavy damage to New Orleans’ central business district could affect a large number of that city’s law firms. Compared to Atlanta, Quillen said, New Orleans’ major law firms are clustered within a small geographic area of the city. The hurricane reminded Quillen of the advantage of a national firm, he said, one with “a lot of locations where people can pitch in to help.” Hurricane Katrina made for an eventful, if not fruitful, visit to New Orleans last weekend by Douglas R. Sullenberger, a lawyer in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips. Sullenberger said he helped his daughter move into her dormitory at Tulane University. He was on his way out of town on Sunday when he heard that Tulane was evacuating. Sullenberger turned around, picked up his daughter and brought her back to Atlanta. Fulton County Daily Report staff reporter Meredith Hobbs contributed to this report.

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