By Casey Sullivan
Nov 6 (Reuters) - Solo practitioners and small law firms in
lower Manhattan said they were having more difficulty resuming
normal operations in the wake of superstorm Sandy than many of
their big law colleagues.
Small firms typically don't have satellite offices and
sometimes don't have off-site Internet servers, which can make
it difficult to work remotely and can create problems ranging
from document retrieval to staff morale.
The Law Office of Victoria Wickman, a three-attorney medical
malpractice firm in the Financial District, has been hampered by
the shutdown of a handful of New York hospitals that lost power
during the storm.
At least 15 of the firm's medical malpractice lawsuits have
been delayed, since hospitals cannot provide requested medical
records, according to Anthony Ferrantelli, a lawyer with the
New York University Langone Medical Center, on First Avenue
and 33rd Street, and Bellevue Hospital, at First Avenue and 26th
Street, remained closed as of Tuesday afternoon.
The Wickman firm had to file for several court extensions
because lawyers working from home didn't have access to work
email or phone lines, Ferrantelli said. "It was a severe
setback," he said.
Golub & Golub, a six-lawyer boutique specializing in
distressed debt and corporate transactions, also had to delay
transactions because of Sandy. Though the firm has an off-site
data retrieval system, lawyers couldn't access documents
necessary to close deals because firm headquarters were shut
down, said managing partner Steven Golub.
Other small law firms had issues unrelated to power.
Adam Leitman Bailey has a 27-attorney real estate boutique near
Wall Street. He said he kept the firm running the Monday Sandy
struck so lawyers would be available to help landlords who had
issues during the storm. The decision, however, caused morale
issues with the staff that Bailey said he now has to repair.
"Our employees do not understand why I would put them
allegedly in harm's way on a Monday," he said, noting that he
paid roughly $10,000 to contract a car service to transport
lawyers from the office to their homes.
Anna Valentini, a solo practitioner who specializes in
immigration issues, wasn't able to work out of her office for
the past week and had to repurchase her phone and Internet
service after they were knocked out. Still, she has not had any
calls from potential new clients since the storm struck.
"If you're a solo attorney working with people with modest
means, it's actually a hard hit," said Valentini, who spent
between $300 and $400 on communications and other storm-related
expenses in the last week. "I'm worried about the survival of my
Meanwhile, many large and mid-size New York law firms said
conditions were getting better by the day.
The downtown Manhattan office of Harris Beach, a 200-lawyer
firm, was closed on Monday, but the firm relocated some lawyers
to its White Plains and Long Island outposts, according to firm
member Cynthia Antonucci. Between 50 and 80 lawyers working from
home were provided laptops by the firm's IT department in
Rochester, said Antonucci.
After a week working out of a temporary space in midtown
Manhattan, lawyers from Sullivan & Cromwell should begin
transitioning lawyers back to headquarters at 125 Broad Street
Nov. 12, said Chairman Joe Shenker.
Meanwhile, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, whose main
office is at One Chase Manhattan Plaza, reopened on Monday,
albeit without heat. Lawyers were allowed to wear jeans and
sweaters to work to keep warm, according to Chairman Mel
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