17 September 2001
The New York City offices of Sidley Austin Brown & Wood and Harris Beach & Wilcox both have staff missing following the attack on the World Trade Center last week.
Both firms saw their offices destroyed with the collapse of both towers last Tuesday (11 September). On Friday, Sidley Austin had not been able to contact three of its employees since the tragedy, while New York state firm Harris Beach still had five unaccounted for.
Thacher Proffitt & Wood, which occupied four floors of the southern tower - the 20th, 38th, 39th and 40th - has now accounted for all of its employees.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton's New York headquarters at One Liberty Plaza, an office building directly adjacent to the Trade Center, was finally declared to be structurally sound on Friday. At present, the firm's lawyers are working from its Midtown conference facility, where a disaster recovery capability was set up after the 1993 bombing of the Trade Center.
Cleary Gottlieb managing partner Peter Karasz said that support services were restored within 48 hours. He expressed his gratitude that no one from the firm was injured in the tragedy.
Sidley Austin occupied five floors and had around 600 people working in the northern tower of the Trade Center, between the 54th and 59th levels. The space was largely home to legacy Brown & Wood partners, and the firm had a second office in Midtown New York which housed legacy Sidley & Austin lawyers. The two firms merged in May this year.
Harris Beach was located on the 85th floor of the south tower and had 113 lawyers working in the building.
A spokesperson for Sidley Austin said: "Most importantly, the human cost in terms of casualties sustained by our personnel was far less than might have been expected at a facility which housed 600 people.
"Due to a combination of the timing and sequence of events, it appears that only one of our colleagues is clearly unaccounted for and that there are only two others we have not yet been able to reach."
The disaster has meant more than 14,000 lawyers have not been able to get to their financial district offices.
Other firms affected include Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, Sullivan & Cromwell and Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson, all three of which escaped loss of life. All were operating out of space elsewhere in Manhattan last week and were expecting to return to their offices today (17 September).
One partner from the London office of Milbank Tweed had been in New York and due to attend a meeting in the Trade Center on the morning of the attack. He was missing for several hours before it emerged that he had not attended the appointment and was safe.
City firm Lovells had a senior banking associate on secondment at Standard Chartered Bank in the Trade Center complex who also managed to get out safely.
Bob Mollen, the managing partner of Fried Frank's London office, said: "We evacuated our building in New York at about 9.30am, so some of our folks were caught walking out when the tower fell. They found themselves covered in black soot, but I'm not aware that anybody was in harm's way."
Phil Fletcher, the managing partner of Milbank Tweed in London, said: "A few of our people had smoke inhalation and were taken to hospital. We have three spouses missing, but nobody from the firm.
"I've been touched by how many people around the City [of London] have just called up to express concern and offer help. We've had two major City law firms on the phone offering resources."
Two US lawyers were killed in the hijacked planes. Barbara Olson, a Washington DC partner at Alabama firm Balch & Bingham, who was famous for her investigations into Bill Clinton's misdeeds, lost her life.
And another DC firm, Wiley Rein & Fielding, is mourning the loss of partner Karen Kincaid, who died on the flight which crashed into the Pentagon.