Natural Disasters

Lawyers at US Firms in Tokyo Tell of Swaying Floors, Nausea During Japan Earthquake

Lawyer Gary Wigmore was working on the 21st floor in the Tokyo Midtown complex when the 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Friday evening.

Wigmore, a Tokyo project finance partner with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, had been drilled on how to respond to earthquakes, but it was a difficult experience, he told the Am Law Daily.

“The building was moving left and right and swaying several inches,” Wigmore told the publication in an e-mail. “It was like walking on the deck of a ship where you feel like falling and have to reach out to the wall to brace yourself,” he said. “A number of people including myself felt nauseous.”

The earthquake was the largest to hit Japan in 100 years, producing a tsunami with 23-foot waves that killed hundreds of people on Japan’s eastern coast, the Associated Press reports.

Wigmore told the Am Law Daily that he and other Milbank employees put on hard hats, as they had been instructed, walked down 21 floors and gathered in a park. After a few hours, some people went home, while others went back to the office.

Another Tokyo lawyer, intellectual property partner Maxwell Fox of Ropes & Gray, told the Am Law Daily he’s been in earthquakes before, but Friday’s quake “was the most severe I’ve ever felt. It was rolling, just a very disconcerting feeling.”

Spokespersons for White & Case and Vinson & Elkins tell the ABA Journal that all the people in their Tokyo offices were safe after the quake.

Brad Karp, the chairman of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, issued a statement affirming the safety of his firm’s personnel. “Everyone in our Tokyo office is safe and has been accounted for, and the various members of the Paul Weiss community who were in Japan on business also are safe and have been accounted for,” he said. “Our hearts go out to the victims of this disaster.”

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