Volunteer Resources for Disaster Relief

How Lawyers Can Help with Hurricane Relief

The Tennessee Bar Association, through its Access to Justice Committee and Young Lawyers Division, is providing outreach and support for pro bono legal services and financial assistance for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

·       ABA Disaster Relief and ABA Young Lawyers Division: Information for disaster survivors, updates on pro bono opportunities and ways to donate to organizations seeking financial contributions: www.americanbar.org/groups/young_lawyers/disaster_legal_services.html

·       Texas Free Legal Answers: Tennessee attorneys can volunteer with Texas.FreeLegalAnswers.org, now updated to permit attorneys licensed outside of Texas, to participate.

·       The Texas Access to Justice Foundation (www.teajf.org), the Texas Bar Foundation (www.txbf.org) and Florida Bar Foundation (www.thefloridabarfoundation.org) have established Hurricane Legal Aid Funds, with 100 percent of donations going directly to civil legal aid organizations providing support to hurricane survivors.

•    To ensure that legal assistance is available to victims of hurricane disasters in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the American Bar Association has partnered with the Louisiana Civil Justice Center (LCJC) to create a hotline that can provide needed information and services through pro bono volunteers.
"Because there is such severe devastation on those islands, local lawyers will probably not be able to provide sufficient pro bono service to meet the growing need for legal help," says ABA Division for Legal Services Director Terry Brooks. The ABA urges lawyers who are active members of the USVI or Puerto Rico bars to sign up to accept referrals of pro bono cases from the LCJC. Lawyers who are not licensed in either place can also assist, by providing legal research or assistance with federal/administrative law questions. The volunteer sign up form is online, in English and Spanish, at ABA Disaster Legal Services Volunteer Attorney Intake Form.

 

Lawyers are serving as critical “second responders” helping with legal needs for those affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Soon after Harvey hit the Texas coast in August, the state’s Supreme Court went into action. By issuing an emergency order allowing out-of-state lawyers to practice Texas law temporarily, the court opened the avenue for legal help to pour in from other states. The order allows volunteer attorneys from across the country to provide pro bono support in Texas or remotely, by working with a “legal aid or pro bono program or a bar association that provides services to victims of Hurricane Harvey.”

Tennessee lawyers, like in many other states, have responded by going to Texas Free Legal Answers to help. “Now is the time to begin spreading the word so that lawyers across our state realize we have a real opportunity to be true Tennessee volunteers again and help those who need it most,” Tennessee Supreme Court Chief Justice Jeffrey Bivins said. “The Tennessee Supreme Court stands ready to help the volunteer lawyers in any way we can.”

Soon after, in early September, Hurricane Irma pummeled Florida, the U.S. Virgin Islands and other areas, leaving devastation across the entire region. To help its citizens, the Florida Bar responded through pro bono and fundraising efforts. Although Florida has not expanded pro bono opportunities to attorneys licensed outside the state, the Florida Supreme Court raised the income cap for use of Florida Free Legal Answers, thus allowing more people to get pro bono help from lawyers. Additionally, there are Hurricane Legal Aid Funds set up in both states that will support civil legal aid for hurricane survivors.

As avenues and resources are added to help with support for pro bono legal services and financial assistance for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, updates will be made at the Tennessee Bar Association’s website. Visit www.tba.org/node/94433 to stay informed.

 

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