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Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP Logo

Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP

Location: Two World Trade Center
Floors: 20,38,39,40

 

Recovery

 

The first few days

 

September 11, 2001 dawned as a clear and beautiful fall day. Early that morning, inside the offices of Thacher Proffitt on Floors 38, 39 and 40 of 2 World Trade Center, some 30 employees were getting a jump on the normal 9:15 start of business. The routines of a law firm began: lawyers conducted conference calls, secretaries checked messages, and mailroom carts rolled quietly through the hallways. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Firmís attorneys and staff were making their way down to the tip of Manhattan from all corners of the tri-state area. The remaining started their day at one of the Firmís four other offices, or various other locations of business. Firm Chairman Jack Williams was among these travelers, preparing to travel to Colorado.


On September 11, 2001, Thacher Proffitt was 152 years old, a law firm with almost 200 attorneys and a worldwide practice. The Firm had been located at 40 Wall Street, a short walk away, until 1985, when it had moved to the World Trade Center, starting with two floors, and leasing a third in 1997. By 2001 the Firm had grown to occupy a total of about 120,000 square feet and had recently renegotiated its lease to extend through 2011.


The previous years had not been without mishap. On the busy Friday afternoon of February 26, 1993, a car bomb went off in the basement of One World Trade Center, and the explosion sent fire and smoke billowing up into the trade towers, leading to their evacuation and startling the city. The Firm scrambled for alternate space nearby. Within two days, Thacher Proffitt found temporary quarters at 7 Hanover Square, previously used by Goldman Sachs for back office space. It was a month before the Firm could return to its newly-scrubbed offices in the World Trade Center. A greater challenge was to follow.


The collapse of the World Trade Centers, took with it the tangible Thacher Proffitt Ė hundreds of pieces of furniture, reams of paper, computers, and with it, much of the documentation for transactions in process at the time. More important, though, was the fate of the employees who were subjected to the horribly traumatic experience of death and devastation around them. The vivid accounts of some of those survivors are recorded in the other sections of this memorial. There was no place to go, and there was obviously great concern about the personal safety of those known to be in the building and the very future of the Firm. The combination of heartbreak, urgency, fear and confusion was everywhere, but despite it all, decisions had to be made, and quickly.


First and foremost was to determine the safety of the Firmís people. From a terminal at Newark Airport, Firm Chairman Jack Williams, after failing to reach the Trade Center offices, immediately called the Firmís White Plains office, trying, among other things, to set that effort in motion. In White Plains, a team immediately mobilized to track down each and every employee. Each member of the team took a group of names to contact and then met hourly to check the names off what became ďThe ListĒ, a copy of the firmís most recent telephone directory. At the same time, in order to remain consistent in communication and provide as much information as possible, a "points of call" memorandum was created to provide talking points to be covered in each call to associates and staff members. A call-in number for employees and friends was created and provided to various local television stations and websites to include in the banners that were now streaming across the television and computer screens across the nation.


Thacherís Human Resources team recruited a counseling service, and their phone number conveyed to associates and staff as they were each located. Partner Jean Burke (whose recollection follows below), working with our Human Resources staff, guided this effort. The arduous and tension-filled survey was completed when the last unaccounted-for employee reported in on Thursday, during the Firmís first post-disaster partnerís meeting, to the applause and relief of the assembled partners.



The Firmís website became an essential means of communication with the outside world, and a message conveying the status of the Firm, its sympathy for the victims of the attack, and its determination to continue was developed and posted. A daily call-in number for employees was established, giving information about the current status of recovery, scheduled meetings, counseling services available and similar information, and the message was updated daily. A press release, rarely used by the Firm previously, was later issued with the same message.


Meanwhile, Partners and associates were meeting spontaneously, in person and by telephone. Paul Tvetenstrand, a member of the Firmís executive committee, who was on a train in Hoboken when the events occurred, returned to his home in Summit, New Jersey and brought together a number of partners from the area. Together, they called other partners, and divided up different responsibilities. In addition, a conference call took place on the afternoon of September 11 among all partners who could be reached. By then, Jack Williams had returned to his home in Ho-ho-kus, New Jersey, and the huge process of rebuilding the Firm was beginning in earnest. After successfully determining the safety of the Firmís people, the enormous task of completing pending and time-sensitive client work and reestablishing the lost infrastructure of the Firmís practice loomed ahead. In the conference call on the afternoon of 9/11, groups were formed to search for office space and to restore the firmís technology.


The White Plains office served as a gathering place and temporary command center and as many partners as could be accommodated gathered there beginning early on September 12 for planning sessions while more permanent quarters were sought. Frequent informal meetings were held there and partners were kept informed as planning progressed. Leaders of the various practice groups assembled their attorneys and staff at temporary work sites and resumed serving their clients. For example, Steve Kudenholdt, Chair of the firmís Structured Finance Practice Group, arranged with Peter Oí Finn of Le Boeuf, Lamb, Greene & McRae for the immediate use of space and computer access for about 40 lawyers at their offices in midtown. Others in Structured finance worked from the offices of clients C-Bass and the New York office of the Dutch law firm, Natua Dutilh, among others. Between September 11 and the first of October, the group was able to complete all transactions in progress at that date. The firm's Real Estate Practice Group worked for several weeks in space lent by Hunton & Williams, White & Case and client Bank of America. The firm's Litigation attorneys were generously lent space by Winston & Strawn. The Banking group worked from the White Plains office, as it had in 1993. Though most of these arrangements only lasted a short time, Structured Finance would not move into new space until the end of the quarter, in order to complete its transactions without having to move more than once.


First thing Wednesday morning, September 12, a group consisting of the Chairman of the Firmís Real Estate practice group, another Real Estate Partner and a couple of Structured Finance partners were on the ground in New York City urgently hunting office space. Almost 12 Million square feet of office space was destroyed in the attacks, and noone knew if that much space was available. Thacher Proffitt was not the only firm looking for a new temporary home, and there was concern about a ďfeeding frenzyĒ among displaced firms. Since transportation downtown had been seriously disrupted, the group decided to concentrate on midtown. They soon found sublet space on three floors at 11 West 42nd Street, an older but recently renovated building, across from the New York Public Library and Bryant Park. Thursday afternoon, September 13, at a Partnerís meeting, acquisition of the space was approved. As an added benefit, the company leaving the space was willing to sell its existing telephone system, providing the Firm immediately with some two hundred working telephone lines in place, to which was added 100 more. By the Monday following the attack, the Firm was formally moving into new quarters.


A group of partners was appointed in the initial conference call to look after technology. In the months preceding 9/11 a very able technology lawyer had joined us a lateral Partner and he and another similarly-skilled partner went about working with our existing tech staff to rebuild our communications network. We had lost our main servers ,as well as 350 recently purchased Dell computers, among other things. By the end of the day on 9/11, we had restored limited phone capacity by rerouting all calls to the White Plains office. We then retained the firm Dimension Data to supplement an existing relationship we had with MDY Consulting to help us rebuild our computer system. The high capacity lines that provided our internet access and connected the firmís offices to each other had all been routed through 90 West Street and became useless when that building suffered from the fall of the towers. Thus, the inherited phone system helped right away, but until the T-l lines could be restored, internet access was slow. Dell Computer honored an urgent request for computers, and over the weekend following September 11, the Firm sent a chartered 18-wheeler down to Austin, Texas to pick up almost 300 new computers. When they arrived on Monday, partners, associates and staff were waiting to unload the truck. It required the Firmís staff and consultants working virtually around the clock, but within a week of the disaster, Thacher Proffitt was back in business.


Among the millions of papers that filled the sky on September 11 was the documentation of the Firmís work in progress, essential transactions that had to be completed, and that all had serious deadlines. The Firm had backed up a substantial portion of the system, but unfortunately not all. So, a partner who had been in San Antonio, Texas, drove back to New York by way of Washington, D.C and picked up cds and backup tapes of many of the Firmís records. Back up tapes were obtained from the White Plains office as well. Many of the drafts for transactions in progress had been sent out through e-mail and other means and through returned e-mail distributions from clients and fellow attorneys, scanning and the like, and a nonstop effort by the Firmís associates and staff, the near-impossible was achieved: the creation and recovery of documentation sufficient to complete all transactions pending on 9/11. The clients had been served. It is impossible to do adequate justice to all the hard work of the partners, associates and staff of the Firm.


Jean Burke on "The List"
When we learned in White Plains that our offices at the World Trade Center had been attacked, two teams began immediately to search for all our friends who had worked on 38, 39 and 40. One team began answering the flood of callers from literally every corner of the earth looking for news of loved ones and friends, and sometimes giving us news that one of ours was safe. The other team called every number we could find to learn if each person on the List had escaped the terror of that morning. The teams kept lists of every person they had found. We met every hour in the beginning and many times a day in the next days to pool our precious information. This was one Master List. It was not until three days later that we were able to cross off the last name with great joy that all our friends were safe, and enormous grief for all those we had lost.

- Jean E. Burke

Master Call List


9/11/2001 - Jack Williams, Thacher Proffitt Managing Partner's, checklist

9/12/2001 - Press Release and Letter Posted to www.tpw.com


To Our Friends and Clients:

We are stunned by the tragedy at the World Trade Center and we offer our most sincere condolences to the families of those who have been killed or injured. This was an incredibly cruel act.


Obviously, our Firm's offices in 2 World Trade Center have been destroyed. We have accounted for most of our staff and are attempting to reach those we haven't heard from. We are hoping for their safety. Miraculously, none of our partners were injured in the incident, for which we are very grateful.


Now our task is to reorganize to service our clients. Our White Plains, New York, Jersey City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and Mexico City, Mexico offices are open and operating normally. Our partners and associates in these offices can reach all of our New York lawyers. Our New York partners and staff will also be reachable through out (212) 912-7400 number, which is being forwarded to White Plains, and we will have our e-mail connections back up within the next few days. We will be communicating further as to our physical location as soon as we find suitable space, but we have secured conference and other facilities for the interim.


We thank our clients and friends for their sympathy in this difficult time and their many generous offers of support.


We will keep our updated information posted on our website at tpwlaw.com

THACHER PROFFITT & WOOD


9/12/2001 - Update phone line

THIS IS JACK WILLIAMS ON THE THACHER PROFFITT UPDATE LINE. THANK YOU FOR CALLING. BY NOW, I HOPE YOU HAVE HEARD DIRECTLY FROM ONE OF US. BUT, I WANTED TO REACH EACH OF YOU MYSELF. MOST IMPORTANTLY, WE ARE SO GRATEFUL THAT YOU ARE SAFE. WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO CONFIRM THE SAFETY OF VIRTUALLY ALL OF OUR STAFF. THERE ARE ONLY A FEW INDIVIDUALS WE HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO REACH. OUR OFFICES IN WASHINGTON, JERSEY CITY, WHITE PLAINS, AND MEXICO CITY ARE FUNCTIONING AT 100%. OUR HIGHEST PRIORITY IS CONFIRMING THE SAFETY OF ALL OF OUR STAFF. NEXT, OUR PRIORITY IS LOCATING ALTERNATE SPACE IN NEW YORK CITY TO RESUME WORKING TOGETHER AS WE ALWAYS HAVE. WE PLAN TO HAVE A MEETING WITH ALL THE STAFF EARLY NEXT WEEK. PLEASE CALL INTO THIS NUMBER IN THE MORNING AND THE AFTERNOON. WE WILL POST UPDATED INFORMATION AS WE HAVE IT, ESPECIALLY AS TO THE DATE AND LOCATION OF OUR MEETING WITH ALL STAFF. ALSO, WE ARE POSTING UPDATED INFORMATION ON OUR WEB SITE, WWW.TPWLAW.COM. AGAIN, THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE. THIS IS A DIFFICULT TIME FOR ALL OF US. WE ARE TAKING ALL STEPS NECESSARY TO RESUME FUNCTIONING AT 100%, AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING WITH YOU VERY SOON.


9/12/2001 - Points for call to each associate

1. Confirm the individual is okay.


2. Advise that we have crisis counselors. They can be reached at ____________. Encourage the Associate to call if he or she wants to do so.


3. In response to questions about other individuals:

a) We have been able to account for all but a few individuals


b) We have not received any "bad" news


c) Do you have and information about the following:


Jens Berkle Erin Byrnes Pinky Calingo Janet Conde
Gaspard Gordon Celeste Gorham Adero Gray Solomon Robin Green
Barton Lewis Danielle Myers Michelle Pak Jenny Vargas


4. We are mobilizing as quickly as possible to resume business as usual; locating new space is our #1 priority, and we hope to have news on that very soon.


5. There will be a meeting of all Associates and Partners to update everyone on Saturday morning at 11 am in the Auditorium of the Pace University Business School, One Martine Avenue, White Plains, New York.


6. We are making payroll as usual for the period ending 9/16/01. Direct deposits will be made as usual. Paper checks, for those who receive them, will be mailed tomorrow.


7. If you have any questions between now and the meeting, call ____________.


8. We will be updating our website as information becomes available.



9/12/2001 - Points for call to each staff member

1. Confirm the individual is okay.


2. Advise that we have crisis counselors. They can be reached at ____________. Encourage the Associate to call if he or she wants to do so.


3. In response to questions about other individuals:

a) We have been able to account for all but a few individuals


b) We have not received an "bad" news


c) Do you have and information about the following:

Jens Berkle Erin Byrnes Pinky Calingo Janet Conde
Gaspard Gordon Celeste Gorham Adero Gray Solomon Robin Green
Barton Lewis Danielle Myers Michelle Pak Jenny Vargas


4. We are mobilizing as quickly as possible to resume business as usual; locating new space is our #1 priority, and we hope to have news on that very soon.


5. There will be a meeting of all Staff soon to update everyone. As of Thursday, at 11 am, you can call the Thacher Proffitt update line for current information. As soon as it is scheduled, we will announce information about the location, date and time of our staff meeting on the update line. You can access the update line by calling _______________ or _______________. The pass code for each number is _______. We ask that you check the update line several times a day.


6. We are making payroll as usual for the period ending 9/16/01. Direct deposits will be made as usual. Paper checks, for those who receive them, will be mailed tomorrow.


7. If you have any questions, call ____________.

8. We will be updating our website as information becomes available.

9/13/2001 - Memo about reconstructing the Firm's records.

Memo


09-14-01 - Agenda for the Associates meeting of September 15, 2001.

Agenda


9/14/2001 - E-mail to the Firm to confirm well being of all employees.

From: Jean E Burke
To: EVERYONE
Date: 9/14/01 4:15AM
Subject: Call us !!

The White Plains office is open. Please let us know if you are ok. Try:

914-421-4100

914-672-6775

914-393-5951

Or email me by replying to this message. We will post information as we receive it on this email. After the office here closes we will leave an outgoing message on our main phone line.

Jean E. Burke

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