Disasters / Emergencies

After the Haitian earthquake last year, we saw law firms step up in a big way to support relief efforts down there. Hopefully we will see the same reaction to the ever-increasing tragedy unfolding in Japan. Given an 8.9 a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a massive tsunami, and a nuclear disaster that is already the second-worst nuclear accident in history, you hope that Japan will get all the help that the world can provide.

If anything, the nuclear meltdown angle is obscuring the humanitarian crisis currently happening in Japan. We know that Americans can’t focus on something unless there is some tangential relationship to something bad that could happen here, but you’d think that the possibility of 10,000 deaths would be enough to trigger our humanitarian concern without obsessing about apocalyptic scenarios.

Thankfully, a couple of law firms aren’t waiting for Japan to start glowing before making efforts to help…

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Here in New York City, the headquarters of Above the Law, we’re still dealing with the aftermath of the Great Blizzard of 2010. Check out our slideshow for some images (like the one at right).

Although the snowstorm ended on Monday, and it’s now Wednesday night, many streets remain unplowed and many sidewalks uncleared. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, generally praised for his tremendous competence, is taking a lot of flak for the city’s inadequate response.

And that’s just in terms of politics and public relations. Wait until the lawyers get involved!

What possible causes of action could arise out of the snowstorm? Let’s discuss….

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Dealing with a frozen job market.

As I alluded to last week, today I was supposed to be getting some action down in sunny Florida. Alas, thanks to the massive blizzard that hit the East Coast last night, I’m stuck in my Manhattan apartment — after three consecutive flights got canceled on me.

I’m grumpy, but understanding (and enjoying a Glee marathon — finishing up season one). The snowstorm was epic, after all. It’s over now, but the effects linger.

Just check out the view from my window….

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As we mentioned this weekend, the BP oil spill has been capped (for the time being), and now we can fully focus on who needs to get paid. As with so many things, it’s Ken Feinberg’s world and we’re just living in it. Bloomberg reports:

Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing a $20 billion fund to pay damage claims from BP Plc’s oil spill, pledged to create a system “more generous and more beneficial” to spill victims than taking the company to court.

More generous than court? Ooohh, judicial system, Czar Feinberg is calling you out. You gonna just take that?

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A paralegal tries to cool himself off.

It’s getting hot in herre
So turn off all your lights.
I am… getting so hot…
I wanna turn my lights off! [FN1]

Here on the East Coast, things are heating up. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about the legal job market.

We’re speaking much more literally. For the past few days, New York, Washington, and places in between have been in the grips of a brutal heat wave. On Tuesday and Wednesday, temperatures in NYC broke record highs, entering triple-digit territory.

Today, mercifully, has been a bit better. In D.C., temps will top out in the mid-to-upper 90s this afternoon. As a Washington Post reader quipped, “Only in the mid 90′s today… better grab a jacket before leaving the house!”

They say lawyers are cold-blooded creatures — but we get hot too. How are law firms and law schools coping with the heat?

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Article II, meet Article III. Hope you enjoy the pwnage. CNN reports:

A federal judge has blocked a six-month federal moratorium on deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Several dozen plaintiffs had sued the Obama administration, arguing the ban would create long-term economic harm to their businesses.

Well, think of it this way: the chances of another one of these rigs exploding and creating an environmental catastrophe that is beyond our ability to fix is like really, really small…

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BP: 'Make us!'

Obama: 'Plug the damn hole.'

Not many people are happy about the massive BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — with the possible exceptions of (1) Elena Kagan, whose confirmation to the Supreme Court is all but guaranteed (since everyone’s too distracted to oppose her); (2) the lawyers who are getting work out of this disaster (as discussed below); and (3) whoever is behind the fake BP Twitter account, which currently has over 167,000 followers.

But today brings some news that might make some people a little less angry at BP. Even though the government probably couldn’t have forced the oil giant to set up a $20 billion fund to pay oil spill claims, for the reasons explained by Professor David Zaring, BP is setting up such a fund voluntarily. The New York Times reports:

The White House and BP agreed on Wednesday that the oil giant would create an independent $20 billion fund to pay claims arising from the worst oil spill in American history.

Bowing to pressure from the Obama administration, the company also said it would suspend paying dividends to its shareholders for the rest of the year and would compensate oil field workers for lost wages.

There are actually several legal angles to the BP drama. For example, who will administer this massive fund? And which firms are getting a piece of all the defense-side action?

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Jamie Gorelick is a Washington D.C. power lawyer. She’s a former Deputy Attorney General, former general counsel to the Defense Department, and current partner at WilmerHale, where she chairs the national security and public policy practice groups. She’s had — and continues to have — an amazing career.

But does she really want to be the legal face of the BP disaster?

Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick will head the legal team for British oil giant BP PLC as it prepares to respond to legal challenges related to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Greenwire reported Wednesday.

“We have been retained to help the company respond to the numerous congressional inquiries that are underway,” Gorelick, now of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP, said in an e-mail to Greenwire. “We have not been retained to advocate for any position.”

Does WilmerHale really want this? Yesterday, the Daily News called BP’s CEO Tony Hayward the most hated man in America — and the headline was probably an understatement. There’s a new Facebook group entitled I vote we plug the Gulf oil leak with BP executives.

Do Gorelick and WilmerHale really want to be the lawyers for his company? Isn’t there some white-baby-killing, terrorist Nazi out there who would make for a more sympathetic client right now?

Oh, but the fees, the fees…

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Snow NYC blizzard.jpgYay. Snowpacolypse 2.0! Snowmageddon! The Snopture!
(Wait, there’s more….)
Dandruff 2010. The Winter of Our Snowcontent. Weekday of Marital Sex — 2010. Waiting for Snowdot. Entirely Seasonal Weather for February!
(Okay, I’m finished.)
Who has the day off? More to the point, does having a “snow day” even matter anymore?
Telecommunication kills the snow day, after the jump.

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Georgetown Law logo.jpgWe were beset by technical difficulties here at ATL yesterday (as we explained in our Twitter feed). We apologize for the site outages; hopefully the situation will be better next week.
At least we didn’t have to go out in the snow. Our brethren in D.C. were not as fortunate. The Washington Post reports:

The full weight of winter brought life in much of the Washington region to a standstill Saturday as a storm predicted to be one of the most powerful on record dumped 12 to 21 inches of snow overnight. …
[O]fficials pleaded with people to stay off the roads until conditions improve. People were confined to their homes by the mountains of snow, many in the dark as trees brought down power lines.

Stay off the roads? But we’ve got an LSAT to take, damn it.

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