Lawyers at Willkie Farr & Gallagher and Sidley Austin were still forced to work outside their New York offices Tuesday afternoon, one day after a helicopter crash-landed on the roof of their building at 787 Seventh Ave.
Steven Gartner, Willkie’s co-chairman, said that tenants still had not been told when they could return as of midafternoon on Tuesday. The building, which was evacuated immediately after the Monday afternoon crash, first has to be cleared for occupancy by authorities and building management, he said, noting an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.
In the meantime, some of Willkie’s New York lawyers and staff were working in temporary space at a client’s office on Tuesday, said Gartner, declining to name the client. Others in Willkie’s 700-person New York office are working at home.
Willkie has made contingency plans in case the disruption continues, Gartner said, adding, “we’ll be fine.”
There’s been “no interruption” of Willkie’s ability to work on client matters, he said. Firm lawyers have been on conference calls and have been attending meetings all day Tuesday, and “it’s not going to interrupt our ability to serve our clients,” Gartner said.
Of course, there have been some inconveniences. For instance, some lawyers and staff left items in the building during the evacuation that they now need, such as a set of keys. But Willkie personnel can still retrieve items with a building escort, he said.
At Sidley, Samir Gandhi, managing partner of Sidley’s New York office, said lawyers and staff were working at home or other locations Tuesday. He said he was hopeful the firm could return to the building as soon as Wednesday. The ultimate return date wasn’t entirely certain, he said, as officials were still checking on the building’s emergency power system, which may be difficult to access through the roof.
He said the firm had two main priorities after the building evacuation: looking after the well-being of its personnel after the building evacuation by making sure office workers got home safely, and making sure client matters were being serviced. The firm is following those priorities closely, he said.
Meanwhile, Sidley has received multiple generous offers from other law firms and the city bar for space and other resources, Gandhi said. So far, the firm hasn’t taken up offers for temporary space, Gandhi said, adding, “We have truly appreciated the generosity that has been expressed to us.”
“We’re able to work remotely, we’ve rescheduled things that are nonessential or moved essential things to other areas,” Gandhi said. “Our lawyers work around the world, they work on the weekend, they work unfortunately on vacation. They work all over the place. … Client demands are client demands, and the reality is that our lawyers are very, very capable of serving clients no matter what.”
When asked if he expected any big drop-off in billable work in the hours and days after the evacuation, he said he didn’t expect that to happen.
“We’re like all New Yorkers, we’re extremely resilient and extremely strong,” he said. “We can get through this.”