East Coast legal communities were mopping up on October 30 as the “superstorm” Sandy finally began to quit the region. Power outages, mass transit shutdowns and wind and water damage meant a second day on hiatus for attorneys, judges and students in the storms’ path.
Courts in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania remained closed, with some planning to reopen on October 31.
In lower Manhattan and parts of New Jersey, legal communities had suffered a major hit when floodwaters spilled into the streets and high winds whipped trees and poles at the height of the storm on the evening of October 29 and morning of October 30.
Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft’s downtown office remained closed for a second day, and client matters that required in-person meetings were held at the firm’s Midtown offices, according to a spokeswoman. Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s downtown offices, right on the edge of the evacuation area mandated by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, remained shut down.
Phone lines at downtown firms Sullivan & Cromwell and Cahill Gordon & Reindel were not working. Attorneys at neither firm responded to email messages seeking comment.
As of the afternoon, about 250,000 customers in Manhattan were still without power, according to Consolidated Edison Inc., with the southern portion of Manhattan experiencing the highest concentration of outages.
Law firms in Midtown fared better. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe’s office escaped damage, said Peter Bicks, partner in charge, via email. But lots of attorneys and staff were dealing with power outages, flooding and downed trees at home, he said.
One Orrick attorneys working remotely was Josh Rosenkrantz, who on October 29 argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court inside the only federal building in Washington to remain open that day. On October 30, Rosenkrantz remained in the capital, working from the office there, which was officially closed. His return to New York was delayed by the closure of all railways and airports. “We all have deadlines and are coping as well as we can,” he said.
Elsewhere, Duane Morris’s offices in Philadelphia; Wilmington, Del.; and Cherry Hill, N.J. were still closed. Approximately 250 lawyers worked remotely, a spokesman said. The firm hoped to reopen on October 31.
Despite the weather, partner Richard Silfen slogged into the Philadelphia office to lead a team closing an initial public offering for Lehigh Gas Partners.
In Boston, most law firms and courts were bouncing back. Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo’s Boston office, for example, was open while its New York and Washington outposts remained closed. The same was true at Fish & Richardson, which closed its Wilmington office. All of Hinckley, Allen & Snyder’s offices “had full power and were open for business,” said Megan McCormack, director of administration and human resources. High winds, rather than flooding, caused the most damage to the homes of attorneys and staff, she said.
In Newark, N.J., K&L Gates closed its office indefinitely; the neighborhood was strewn with fallen trees and power lines and without functioning traffic lights. “It is really hard to get around,” said R. Spencer Lane, director of the security and business continuity. The firm, which has 44 attorneys in Newark, was renting conference center space in a nearby Hilton hotel for attorneys who needed it.
Law schools in the storm’s path stayed shut, especially in New York City, suburban Long Island and New Jersey, where several schools had yet to announce their plans as of midday.
With transportation systems closed down, however, it seemed unlikely that students would be able to get to campus by November 1. Three law schools in downtown Manhattan—New York University School of Law, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and New York Law School—are in areas that lost power.
Both NYU and New York Law School were slated to stay closed on October 31. Cardozo and New York Law School’s websites were down due to power failures and administrators could not be reached to comment.
Seton Hall University Law School, in Newark, N.J., would remain closed for the rest of the week, said spokeswoman Janet LeMonnier.
“The building did not sustain any damage or flooding, but we don’t have any power, and it may be Thursday or Friday before we do,” she said.
Some law schools were returning to normal. Most campuses in the Boston area reopened and some, including Suffolk University Law School and Boston University School of Law, resumed classes after 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., respectively.
Washington’s law schools remained closed, but some announced plans to resume classes on October 31. Georgetown University Law Center planned to reopen then, said a spokeswoman, but urged students to exercise caution when traveling to and from class.
In Philadelphia, law schools were planning to reopen on October 31.
Contact Leigh Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff reporters Karen Sloan and Sheri Qualters contributed to this report, as did Claire Zillman of Am Law Daily.