As Hurricane Sandy makes its way into the Washington area, law firms are taking heed.
In emails and phone calls this weekend, firms encouraged their D.C. employees to work from home on Monday. Washington lawyers, in response, have been cancelling meetings and keeping an eye on the weather.
"We always keep the safety of everyone at Cooley first and foremost when making decisions to close an office temporarily," Ryan Naftulin, the partner-in-charge of Cooley's Washington office, wrote in an email. "We're of course hopeful that the storm will pass quickly and without significant incident -- in the meantime, we will work remotely and monitor events as they develop."
At Covington, senior of counsel Daniel Spiegel reported to work.
Spiegel said he came into Covington’s 1201 Pennsylvania Avenue NW office at 7 a.m. to work until 2 p.m. on preparations for the firm’s new Seoul outpost. He said “not many” of his colleagues are in the office. The lawyer added that food options in the vicinity appear slim, noting that his building’s cafeteria and a nearby Starbucks are closed.
“It’s very quiet,” Spiegel said.
For many firms, Hurricane Sandy isn’t the first weather event that has kept many of their D.C. employees away from the office.
Several lawyers recalled the February 2010 blizzard, which left many of them at home. But Scott Fredericksen, the managing partner of Foley & Lardner’s Washington office, said his firm has had more experience with weather-related closures than most firms.
Located on the Potomac River in Georgetown, Foley’s office most recently in spring 2011 was shuttered due to flooding, he said.
“We’re pros at” closures, Fredericksen said.
Even with the hurricane, lawyers said they and many of their D.C. colleagues will be busy this week with client matters, using well-oiled systems designed for employees who can’t make it to the office. But lobbyists might not need to worry too much about working from home.
With Congress on recess and Washington policymakers focused on the election, lobbying activity is at a minimum.
“If you could plan a ‘Frankenstorm,’ this would be the time to do it,” said Alston & Bird partner Robert Jones, leader of the firm’s legislative and public policy group.
Matthew Huisman contributed to this report.