Firms pick up the pieces

Lawyers in Manchester returned to work amidst scenes of devastation last week, determined to keep business going as usual. Chambers on King Street and several firms sustained damage during the IRA bomb attack on 15 June.

The Pall Mall office of Addleshaw Sons & Latham was closest to the blast and was so badly damaged the firm will probably have to find new offices. Space was made for staff at the firm's other city centre office, Dennis House.

A spokeswoman for the firm said: “Other firms were very helpful in letting us set up hotlines. Everyone pulls together at times like this.”

Staff from other firms were caught up in the blast. Ceiling tiles crashed on to legal secretary Joanne Hilditch, of Paul Ross & Co. “There was a bang, the place rocked and then the ceiling came down.”

Anne Clarke, a partner at Pannone & Partners, was disrupted by a fire alarm, then by football fans and finally by shattering glass. She said: “I come to the office on Saturday because it is quieter – usually.”

Firms reacted swiftly to news that they could not return to their offices on Monday, setting up hotlines, redirecting calls and hiring conference rooms in hotels. Most were fully operational by Wednesday last week.

Chambers did not escape the blast either, with those on King Street worst affected. The set at 8 King Street decamped to the Midland Hotel until Tuesday evening. But the chambers maintained its business and did not miss a case. Senior clerk Peter Whitman said: “The atmosphere here is despondent but we will sort everything out. There is a good spirit of co-operation in chambers.”

Other firms were lucky. The office of Peter Rickson & Partners, in the listed former Manchester Stock Exchange, stands “like an oasis in the scene of destruction”. Only 100 yards from the bomb crater, the building sustained little damage.