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.

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