KATRINA'S REFUGEES . . . After work yesterday, I was at a bar in Clayton, Missouri, and discovered there was a group of Katrina refugees who had arrived in St. Louis the night before. One of them was a lawyer who told me he'd had a solo practice in New Orleans since he graduated from law school five years ago. Not surprisingly, he was very morose. He said that his office had been demolished but even if it had survived, it wouldn't have mattered very much: his practice wouldn't survive in any case. He said he doubted that some portions of New Orleans would even be rebuilt. He talked about the refugee camps that would have to be established in other parts of the state. He criticized the local government for not planning well enough for the disaster and not ordering an evacuation soon enough. Very angry about what had happened, he mulled over possible causes of action as we talked, more out of frustration than anything else.
He told me he'd left New Orleans on Sunday. The last person he talked to on the phone was his secretary. He'd urged her to leave, but she wouldn't listen. With the phones down, he couldn't get in touch with her. "She's the person I'm worried about the most," he said.
Later in the evening, I received an email about the hurricane from Ken Suggs, the President of ATLA, who was attempting to get word out about hurricane relief to all ATLA members. I'll post the entire email in the continuation. Here's how the email concluded:
[A]s we pull together to offer help to our colleagues whose practices have been devastated, I'd also encourage you to contribute to the general relief efforts at redcross.org.
Good advice for all lawyers.
UPDATE: Ernest Svenson a/k/a Ernie the Attorney, a New Orleans resident, shares his thoughts about the city's devastation in "Coming to grips with the catostrophe."
Email from Ken Suggs to ATLA members:
We're all painfully aware of the devastation Hurricane Katrina has caused and continues to cause to the Gulf Coast region, especially Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.
Our family of trial lawyers with practices in the path of the hurricane has been impacted both personally and professionally.
Some of our brother and sister trial lawyers have lost files and records to torrential rains and flooding, others have lost roofs and buildings to 175 mile per hour winds. Many are without power. All have family, colleagues, and clients struggling to piece together lives, homes, and businesses in the wake of one of the worst storms ever to hit the United States.
As an organization, this is a time for us to come together and reach out to help. Working with our clients, we know more than most that tragedy can strike unexpectedly and capriciously.
We don't have all the answers but we think the best thing to do first is to set up a system for our friends and members to communicate. For that reason, we're creating a special hurricane relief e-mail list server for ATLA members only. To sign up for the hurricane relief list server, please click here. If you need help accessing the list server, please call our Membership Hotline at (800) 424-2727 or (202) 965-3500, ext. 611.
If you're in need of assistance related to your practice or otherwise, if you know of a member in need of assistance, or if you can offer help to our members in the path of the storm, please respond to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ATLA is also reaching out to the affected state trial lawyer associations to offer whatever help we can provide.
Finally, as we pull together to offer help to our colleagues whose practices have been devastated, I'd also encourage you to contribute to the general relief efforts at redcross.org
As we do in the courtroom every day, I know our members will use their skills and compassion to help our fellow Americans recover from this tragedy.
Thank you for all that you do,
Ken Suggs, ATLA President