California Bar Journal
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Energy mess generates resolve
spacer.gif (810 bytes)
Continued from Page 1
spacer.gif (810 bytes)

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.

Nancy ZamoraSome 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 bankruptcy business.

"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 bankruptcy lawyers."

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 blackouts.

"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."