Thursday, September 13, 2001
Jittery Legal Community Resumes Work in Office Towers
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Lawyers and their staffs returned to their Los Angeles office towers yesterday and tried to resume a normal routine, a day after terrorists killed thousands of workers with attacks on skyscrapers in New York.
Downtown’s 74-floor Library Tower, which houses Latham & Watkins and two other law firms, reopened to moderate business and jittery office workers. The building, the tallest west of Chicago, is perhaps the closest thing the city has to a landmark skyscraper after City Hall, and was used in at least two recent films as a target of terrorist attacks.
Latham & Watkins Los Angeles managing partner Martha Jordan said the firm was “operating and fully open.” All offices across the nation opened yesterday, she said—except in New York and New Jersey, right across the Hudson River from Manhattan—out of “respect for the privacy and dignity of the victims.”
Even for firms without New York offices, business life was affected by the continuing ban on air travel.
Harry Hathaway, managing partner of Fulbright & Jaworski’s Los Angeles office, was in Colorado during the attacks and drove his rental car for 14 hours to return to his office.
“I guess that is happening to everyone,” Hathaway said. “It’s put a lot of people with national practices on a virtual standstill. We have a disaster plan, but we need to update it.”
Hathaway noted that one his firm’s clients was an insurance company with offices in the World Trade Center, which collapsed after two airliners apparently commandeered by hijackers were flown into the towers.
“They lost probably 1,000 people,” Hathaway said.
Fulbright’s New York office is in Midtown.
“We don’t think we have any of our extended members lost,” Hathaway said. “We don’t think we lost anyone and that’s a blessing.”
Former Los Angeles District Attorney Robert Philibosian, a partner in Sheppard, Mullin, Richter and Hampton, said offices were “up and running” yesterday.
“In Los Angeles they are checking building entry cards which they normally do not do,” Philibosian said. “Everyone is affected with the airlines not running and next day air service not operating. It is slowing down commerce, but it has not stopped commerce. Fax machines are still up and running. Given the tragic loss of life and the terror, one or two extra days for a letter to arrive pales in comparison to the tragedy that occurred.”
Former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp, of counsel to Dewey Ballantine, has been a member of the Board of Directors of United Air Lines since 1994.
“The involvement of our airlines and the devastating loss of our people is just terrible,” Van de Kamp said. “We had a board conference call yesterday, discussing what United was doing. United is moving heaven and earth in trying to help the families of those involved. The mail, Fed-Ex is using ground transportation system. Overnight mail is now taking 3 days. We are dependent on major business transactions. Obviously that dislocates you for a day or two, but what after that?”
Charles Wharton, executive director of O’Melveny & Myers, said all the firm’s offices around the world opened yesterday with New York, which is in Midtown, on a “more limited basis.”
The firm has adopted a “very liberal leave program” for the New York employees, many of whom can’t get to work because of transportation problems, Wharton said.
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher Los Angeles office manager Julie Denton said the firm was open yesterday but “we’re quiet today, people are distracted” by the attacks. The New York office, which is uptown, remained closed, but the D.C. office opened, she said.
Lance Jurich, managing partner at Loeb & Loeb’s Century City office, said his location and downtown opened after Tuesday’s shutdown.
Lawyers will want to normalize their lives, Jurich said.
“A feeling from a lot of people that you don’t want to give in and change your whole life because of these types of people,” he said. In the meantime, many of the firm’s lawyers were trying to help out by giving blood, he said.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company