Dean Hansell wasn't in New York on Sept. 11, but he might as well have been.
Hansell is managing partner of the Los Angeles office of LeBoeuf Lamb Greene & MacRae LLP, where 50 people work for the New York-based law firm. Since the day of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, he and other local partners have been sorting through the aftermath.
Eleven clients of LeBoeuf's L.A. office had operations in the Trade Center. Now the firm's lawyers must make decisions for clients they cannot reach, request delays in local courts, find replacements for documents lost in the towers' collapse even close a deal despite the death of a key participant.
"It's like we're living through this," Hansell said. "Every story is beyond belief."
Three weeks after the terrorist attacks, Hansell still seems shaken. His desk is cluttered with papers, but he notices two client names missing from a long list of World Trade Center tenants. "I was imagining it was me," he said. "What would I have done? That's what was going through my mind."
He's taken to heart what happened on Sept. 11 by contacting the building owner of his own offices at 725 S. Figueroa St. to discuss security measures and collecting employee cell phone and home numbers. In putting together an emergency evacuation plan, he's worried about two employees who wouldn't make it down the 31 floors on foot.
As at other law firms around town, the last three weeks have been anything but normal, in practical as well as emotional terms. LeBoeuf's own attorneys have been affected so much that the firm held a memorial service here. Hansell has even hired a grief counselor.
Among the clients who had offices in the Trade Center are Cantor Fitzgerald LP, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., Aon Corp. and Guy Carpenter & Co. Many of them had floors on the upper levels.
"Although we decided to reopen here on Wednesday (Sept. 12), I knew people would be raw emotionally. They knew Cantor Fitzgerald would be bad, and they did a lot of work for them. It hit the firm so personally."
After a televised interview with Cantor Fitzgerald's chief executive, he sent some employees off to church. He also invited a Lutheran minister to give a memorial service.
LeBoeuf's clientele was disproportionately hit because the firm focuses on regulated industries such as financial services, insurance and brokerage houses all of which had tenants in the World Trade Center.
Hansell was working on three lawsuits for one client whose name he declined to reveal with offices in the World Trade Center. By last week, he still had not heard from any of the three people with whom he regularly has contact. He does know they are alive, however.
The lawsuits, filed against his client in contract disputes, had to continue. So he's had to make several decisions on his own. "I know how they would have acted and what I needed to do, but I had to do it in a vacuum," Hansell said.
There were other stories. Metropolitan Life Insurance was two days away from closing on a loan for the Trillium office complex in Warner Center when an executive from another adviser in the deal was on one of the planes that crashed into the towers.
Heather Smith, an analyst for Beacon Capital, was flying in from Boston to help local colleagues close the deal, according to Gary York, senior counsel for the L.A. office of LeBoeuf. The deal was completed Sept. 17, but most of the local Beacon executives had already flown back to Boston for Smith's funeral.
On Sept. 21, Hansell had to request in Los Angeles Superior Court a 60-day delay of a Sept. 27 status conference on arbitration between two New York clients and Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center.
The arbitrator was located at the Judicial Arbitration Mediation Services offices several blocks from the World Trade Center, according to the court filing. Those offices are still closed.
Hansell also had to reschedule several depositions in a case involving client Safety National Casualty Corp. in federal court here. The depositions, scheduled for Sept. 19-22, were rescheduled for Oct. 24-27 because LeBoeuf's client and the law firm representing the other party, Manhattan Re-Insurance Co., imposed a ban in air travel. One executive from Manhattan Re was also stuck in Canada during the originally scheduled depositions.
Despite these inconveniences, Hansell is most worried about his own attorneys and staff, many of whom spoke regularly with New York clients and know people who are still missing. Evacuation procedures suddenly loom as large as case outcomes. "If I couldn't get my employees out because we didn't have good enough emergency procedures, I couldn't live with myself," he said.
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