may buy a laptop with extended battery life the
next time his computer system is upgraded.
But buying energy-saving office equipment will
have to wait until replacement is necessary or cost-efficient. "It
would be nice to have new equipment, but it is not realistic in view
of other daily necessities and priorities," Adelman said.
lawyers expect a direct benefit from the crisis in terms of in-creased
bankruptcy filings and other energy-related litigation. Los Angeles
bankruptcy attorney Nancy Zamora says huge jumps in energy costs could
shut down businesses and in-crease consumer bankruptcies. She predicts
an increase in her business.
Daniel Bussel, bankruptcy professor at UCLA
School of Law, agrees that the energy crisis, combined with
California's economic downturn, means a boost in business. In fact,
he is taking a two-year leave of absence to join the Los Angeles firm
of Klee Tuchin Bogdanoff & Stern because of its expanding
"SoCal Edison and PG&E teetering on the
brink are bonuses for bankruptcy attorneys," Bussel says. "These
are huge national cases. These utilities won't liquidate. They have
to be restructured and reorganized, but the issues involved in doing
this are incredibly complicated. That doesn't get better for
Throughout the state, firms are making
contingency plans to handle outages this summer.
Pillsbury Winthrop has a statewide plan to make
computers, printers and telephones available to meet critical needs.
The Sacramento office has entered into a mutual assistance plan with
other law firms in different power blocks to get documents printed and
copied for filing and delivery.
Palo Alto-based Wilson Sonsini Goodrich &
Rosati has developed an energy curtailment plan which can save as much
as 4.5 megawatts - enough to power 4,500 residential homes - in a
24-hour period. Ac-cording to marketing specialist Lori Doyle, the
plan includes de-activating landscape
lighting and shutting down non-essential equipment like boilers and
heat pumps at selected buildings in addition to the basics of cutting
back on fans and radios.
Spread among five buildings on four different
energy blocks, Wilson Sonsini hopes to keep operating during rolling
"We feel that we have created a plan and
prepared our employees to withstand any outages with the least amount
of disruption to our day-to-day business," Doyle says.
Conservation was incorporated into the design of
Heller Ehrman's new Menlo Park office: light from an atrium
permeates three floors, lessening reliance on overhead lighting. All
office lights are on timers linked to motion sensors and can be set to
turn off when there is significant natural light. The office also has
its own back-up generator, run on natural gas, in case of a blackout.
In addition, the firm is purchasing energy-saving fax and copy
machines, devices that can cut electrical use by 50 percent or more.
The law firms' examples of energy savings
represent in a major way what Gov. Gray Davis is trying to get the
rest of the state to do, says Clothilde Hewlett, undersecretary for
State and Consumer Services Agency, which is spearheading the
governor's conservation efforts.
Under Davis' five-point conservation plan for
state facilities, California courthouses are shutting off unnecessary
lights and regulating indoor temperatures.
Brownouts at Ventura Superior Court have become
almost a daily occurrence. Clerks read case files by battery-powered
lanterns during blackouts, and the court's self-help center has
assisted unrepresented litigants by flashlight.
Although the county has assured the court that it
can provide enough power this summer, assistant executive officer
Florence Prushan said productivity has started to suffer. "Case
processing has been a struggle, but the calendars are still on
schedule," Prushan says. "We'll be all right as long as it
doesn't get any worse."
The biggest worry at the Santa Clara County
Superior Court is the prospect of power outages while transferring
in-custody defendants from holding cells to one of 11 courtrooms.
"Many times we have to transfer inmates by elevator or through
courthouses with limited backup lighting," said Susan Myers, chief
assistant executive officer.
Back in San Francisco, litigator George Leal, a
partner in a small firm in a building exempt from blackouts, alluded
to the "fear factor" now in play in lawyers' lives. He said the
most direct implication of the energy crisis for a litigator like him
is the possibility of missing deadlines. Recently writing an
opposition to a summary judgment order, he said, "The thought
crossed my mind that I don't need a power outage two hours before
this thing has to get filed."