American Bar Association / ABA, Bar Exams, Biglaw, Disasters / Emergencies, Law Schools

How Is the Legal World Preparing for Hurricane Irene? Open Thread

Following a freak earthquake earlier in the week, the East Coast is now bracing for the impact of Hurricane Irene. From the Outer Banks of North Carolina to the boroughs of New York City, people are getting ready for another natural disaster that could prove to be devastating.

And speaking of natural disasters, we hear that some folks in North Carolina received their bar exam results today. Congratulations — you’re first to get your bar exam results this year, and you’re first to get ravaged by Irene.

Hopefully this will all blow over. But in case it doesn’t, it’s important to be prepared.

Let’s see how law firms and law schools are getting ready for Hurricane Irene….

As can be expected, Biglaw firms are being as anal retentive as can be in trying to prepare their attorneys for oncoming doom.

Debevoise & Plimpton is readying itself for the storm by making sure that its employees are — you guessed it — prepared to work this weekend. As a last minute addendum, the firm hopes that its lawyers stay safe (how nice). Here’s a memo that went out to employees:

In anticipation of Hurricane Irene, please note the following:

– We have arranged for weekend staffing in IS, Document Production and Secretarial Services. You may call Document Production at extension xxxx for co-ordination of services

– The New York office is currently scheduled to be open on Monday, but you should call the Debevoise Emergency Hotline at (xxx) xxx-xxxx for updated information. Please use your judgment regarding personal safety, listen to local news regarding transportation availability in your area, and co-ordinate with your supervising attorney or manager to advise them of your plans

– In case you need to work remotely on Monday, before leaving the office today you should identify important papers and take them with you; ensure that your Blackberry and cell phone are with you and fully charged; if you do not log in to firm systems remotely via Citrix regularly, take a moment today to do so (instructions are attached below); and shut down your office computer before you leave today (or, if you are not in the office, please make arrangements for someone to do so on your behalf). If you require assistance, you should call the HelpDesk at extension xxxx.

– You can visit the National Hurricane Center website for detailed storm updates and Ready America for government safety recommendations

We will provide further information as and when we have it. Please stay safe.

And while some Biglaw firms are concerned about the safety of their employees, others are concerned about the safety of their books of business. Perkins Coie has set up a webinar specifically dedicated to this impending disaster, entitled “Hurricane Irene: Insurance Coverage for Preventative Measures, Property Damage, and Business Interruption.”

If you’re desperate interested, you can register for the webinar here. As one of our tipsters noted, aren’t large law firms like Perkins supposed to be above “anticipatory ambulance chasing”?

Law schools are a different story. School administrators across the Eastern Seaboard are ready for Irene to bring it on, and they’re preparing for total domination. William and Mary School of Law has already shut its doors and evacuated student housing. Dean Lizbeth Jackson sent the following message to all students (edited for brevity):

The College of William and Mary has decided to cancel classes tomorrow (Friday) and Monday. This applies to the Law School as well.

The Law Library will be open usual hours tomorrow, Friday. The Law Library and the Law School will be locked at 6:00 pm. All students should evacuate the building and not return until Monday, if there is electricity. Please DO NOT return to the Law School until Tuesday for classes, provided there is electricity.

On-campus interviews are expected to occur on Friday. The interviews are cancelled on Monday.

PLEASE heed all government warnings, especially for evacuation from the area if need be. And please, stay safe. You are very important to us!

In other words, don’t be a gunner during a hurricane. There is absolutely no reason for you to be at school. No one is going to think you’re a hero because you braved the storm to go and study in the dark. But there is a very high probability that people will think you’re a complete moron if you do.

And up in Massachusetts, in the wake of a tornado that swept through Springfield in June, my very own alma mater has preemptively closed its doors in anticipation of the storm. Assistant Registrar Mary J. Hebert at Western New England University School of Law emailed the following to students:

The University has cancelled all classes on Monday, August 29th due to the expected arrival of hurricane Irene. The School of Law building, the Law Library and all School of Law offices will be closed on Monday. The School of Law building and the Law Library will also be closed on Sunday, August 28th.

At this time it is expected that all classes will resume on Tuesday morning, August 30th. The School of Law building, the Law Library and all School of Law offices will reopen at the same time.

At the very least, if Irene doesn’t make her way up here, students will get a day off, which is always appreciated.

So, how can you prepare yourself for the wrath of Irene? The ABA has provided us with a helpful guide on how you can become legally prepared for a natural disaster. But it would probably be better if you were actually prepared.

Here are some ideas that your mother has probably already told you:

  • If you think that your power will go out, make sure you have a flashlight and batteries handy.
  • Buy some food that doesn’t have to be refrigerated.
  • If you like your car, park it out of the way of trees that could fall on top of it.
  • Pack a small bag of essentials in advance in case you need to evacuate.

Don’t say Above the Law never did anything for you.

If you have any hurricane stories, please feel free to send them our way. You can post a comment on this open thread; you can email us, at (subject: “Hurricane Irene”); or you can text us (646-820-8477 / 646-820-TIPS).

We sincerely hope that everyone on the East Coast stays safe this weekend. We’ll see you on the other side (if we have electricity).

Hurricane Irene: Outer Banks residents evacuate — or hunker down [Washington Post]
A New York Hurricane Could Be a Multibillion-Dollar Catastrophe [FiveThirtyEight / New York Times]
Are you legally prepared for a natural disaster? [Around the Bar / American Bar Association]
New York Attorneys: Got Hurricane Plan? [U.S. Second Circuit / FindLaw]

Earlier: Previous ATL coverage of disasters and emergencies

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