5th Circuit

In the months after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans' residents have begun to return to their damaged homes and clean up the mess. The task is difficult, but communities are pulling together to help each other out.

Hit especially hard after the storm was the Gulf-based legal community. As displaced lawyers and the local court struggle to get back on their feet, most aren't sure where they'll end up.

In fact, the court hadn't lost any paper documents, but its parking garage and electrical system--located in the building's lower levels--did suffer water damage. And although the court relocated to Houston, it remained closed to new matters in the first few weeks after the storm.

"Judge King said they would hear some cases," Schenck says. "But only in emergency situations, such as stays of execution and deportation."

"We had to pick up our entire New Orleans practice and move it to another city. But all we lost were a couple of weeks of productivity," says Charles P. Adams Jr., managing partner in the firm's Jackson, Miss., office. "We are back in business due to the sacrifices made by many of the lawyers and staff here."

It's thanks to disaster recovery plans that these law firms remain operational at the worst of times. But small, independent firms--often housed in first-floor offices--usually don't have such plans in place. Katrina had a more significant impact on them as a result.

staff Writer

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