Pro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources, and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post-disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

We’re excited to commemorate the American Bar Association’s National Pro Bono Week, a celebration of pro bono legal assistance involving events planned and attended by public interest legal advocates and the organizations they work with. This year’s celebration is focused on disaster resiliency. Recent disasters such as Hurricanes Michael and Florence and Typhoon Mangkhut devastated communities in the southeast and U.S. territories in the Pacific.

This month, Pro Bono Net joined Dentsu Aegis Network, a global marketing communications network, for a 2-day event titled IdeaJam Hackathon, to mark the beginning of a media campaign for disaster survivors and pro bono attorneys.

Continue Reading Pro Bono Net Joins Dentsu Aegis Network for an IdeaJam to Connect Disaster Survivors with Free Legal Help

Celebrate Pro Bono WeekPro Bono Net would like to recognize the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need and the incredibly important work of pro bono volunteers in building our capacity to meet the vast unmet need for civil legal services.  This year we are celebrating National Pro Bono Week by focusing on disaster resiliency in addition to pro bono work around the country. Throughout the week we will be sharing events, resources and highlights of the work being done to help people facing legal challenges post disaster. We are very proud to showcase this work and hope that it will inspire more people to get involved.

Volunteer attorneys make a big difference in the lives of disaster survivors. In order to help those volunteers with their work, Pro Bono Net partners with organizations around the US and its territories to develop resources, tools, and networks to better prepare and facilitate volunteering. In addition to the roundtables we discussed yesterday, Pro Bono Net offers access to news and alerts, listservs, trainings, libraries and volunteer opportunities specially designed for disaster legal aid advocates.

Continue Reading DisasterLegalAid.org Advocacy Center | Pro Bono Week

In honor of National Volunteer Week we will be highlighting volunteers and sharing ways lawyers and advocates can get involved. Today we would like to highlight the work of the Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics which were initiated in response to the 2017 hurricane season.

Probono.net/ny is the New York state network site of probono.net and strives to mobilize and support the volunteer legal community.  Probono.net/ny includes the NYC Pro Bono Center (hosted with the Legal Aid Society and the City Bar Justice Center), and a number of different practice area specific sites, including in family law/domestic violence, community development, housing and foreclosure. The information on our site is made possible by the contributions and collaborations we make with our network of legal service providers in the NY community.

The following highlight was originally published HERE.

Pro Bono FEMA Appeals Clinics for the 2017 hurricane season kicked off on December 11 at the New York City Bar Association with three pro bono attorneys and three clients with support from the City Bar Justice Center. The clinics are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the City Bar, the Association of Pro Bono Counsel, and members of the new Task Force on Disaster Relief launched by New York’s Chief Judge Janet DiFiore. As City Bar President John Kiernan described in his statement on disaster relief,

“Veterans of providing disaster legal services knew from the outset that given the scale of the hurricanes’ effects, the need for assistance from volunteer lawyers would certainly ripen and crystallize once the immediate humanitarian crisis advanced to the next recovery stage.”

Indeed, FEMA reported receiving over 4.5 million benefits applications from storm victims, and the call for pro bono lawyers became clear when FEMA began issuing denials in mid-November.

At the clinic, one of the clients had been evacuated from Puerto Rico. Living in a shelter, the client was denied FEMA assistance because the client had not applied first for a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan. The pro bono team called FEMA on a cell phone and engaged in advocacy, filed an online SBA loan application which was immediately rejected, and called FEMA back to pursue his application for relief. Luckily, FEMA’s phone line is open until 10 p.m.

The second client was a mom with two special needs children who is in the midst of a divorce. She is housed and the kids are in school but missing many items from the hurricane. FEMA granted approximately two thousand dollars to repair her home but she needs to appeal, and will return to the clinic next month.

Attorneys were able to help a third client at the clinic – a Superstorm Sandy victim who is still undergoing home repairs. He noticed the FEMA Appeals sign and walked over from the City Bar’s Monday Night Law clinic. This instance of a Sandy homeowner in need of free legal counsel illustrates how years later, New Yorkers are still dealing with home repairs from Sandy and the Build it Back Program.

Please visit the City Bar Justice Center calendar to learn how to volunteer and make the holidays a little brighter for hurricane victims in New York. Pro bono legal help makes an extraordinary difference for families in crises.


In honor of National Volunteer Week 2018, April 15-21, Pro Bono Net would like to extend our gratitude to the thousands of volunteer lawyers who make a huge difference for those in need.  For those at risk of losing their homes, income and even their children, volunteer lawyers are an indispensable resource. Now more than ever it is important for us to support our most vulnerable communities. This wouldn’t be possible without the immense efforts of volunteer lawyers around the country and the organizations that facilitate volunteering.

Like many of you, Pro Bono Net’s thoughts are with those impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. As advocates for justice, you no doubt share our concerns about the disproportionate and long-term impact disasters often have on low-income and other vulnerable communities, as well as the direct impact these hurricanes have had on nonprofit legal aid programs such as Lone Star Legal Aid.

Legal aid programs help survivors rebuild their lives and navigate the road to recovery, including obtaining disaster benefits, overcoming displacement, replacing wills and vital documents, making insurance claims, combating contractor fraud and scams, safeguarding civil rights and much more. We know from our work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy that this will require long-term commitment, and Pro Bono Net is committed to working with our justice community partners to address the needs that will emerge in the months ahead.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and Super-storm Sandy, Pro Bono Net joined with others in the community to create a national website – DisasterLegalAid.org – to provide ongoing support for legal aid, pro bono and criminal defender attorneys across the country on legal issues related to all types of disasters, as well as referral information for the public. It is a joint effort of Pro Bono Net, Lone Star Legal Aid, the American Bar Association, the Legal Services Corporation, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association and Texas Legal Services Center.

In the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and in preparation for Maria, Pro Bono Net has been in touch with a number of programs directly impacted. In coordination with Lone Star Legal Aid, we’ve added sections to DisasterLegalAid.org with legal relief information for Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Details about federal benefits and disaster legal help available are still emerging in certain regions and information will continue to be updated as it arrives. We are also working directly with our LawHelp partners in Puerto Rico, AyudaLegalPr.org, to identify and make available Spanish-language disaster legal information for the public.

We are working on several enhancements to our LawHelp Interactive-powered interview that guides individuals through the creation of a FEMA appeal letter. First, Capstone Practice Systems is converting the interview to a mobile-responsive A2J 6.0 version, and a Spanish-language version will follow. We are also working with pro bono attorneys from Weil Gotshal to review the interview and update related FAQs and user guides. While this tool was initially designed for pro se use following Super-storm Sandy, we encourage programs considering standing up appeals-related projects to consider using LHI Connect’s remote document sharing and review capabilities to engage volunteer attorneys in helping individuals prepare their FEMA appeals claims during the short appeal window. Please contact info@probono.net to learn more.

Below are more resources those in the public interest legal community can use to help now, and stay connected as needs evolve:

  • BookmarkDisasterLegalAid.org for emerging developments in regions that have been impacted by Harvey, Irma and Maria. Disaster Legal Aid provides centralized resources nationally to legal aid and pro bono programs on a range of disasters, as well as referral information for the public.
  • Visit  the State Bar of Texas’s Disaster Relief Resources page or the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Project’s Volunteer Portal to learn about ways out of state pro bono attorneys can help those impacted in Texas. The Florida Bar Foundation’s Hurricane Information page has information about how Florida attorneys can lend their expertise to relief efforts.
  • Watch a free Practising Law Institute one-hour briefing for attorneys Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: Disaster Assistance which took place on September 7th.  PLI’s Amy Taub was joined by Laura Tuggle, Director of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, and FEMA representatives to discuss federal disaster assistance for disaster survivors. Another 1-hour audio briefing took place on September 18th that will be made available to listen to through PLI’s website in the coming weeks.

If you are in the legal community and able to help in other ways but aren’t sure where to start, feel free to contact us at info@probono.net and we’ll do our best to connect you with the right resources.

 

Halimah Elmariah Development & Communications Intern Fall 2015
Halimah Elmariah Development & Communications Intern

 

Halimah is a sophomore at Seton Hall studying International Relations with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies and French. Passionate about social justice and empowering Muslim women, she regularly blogs for MuslimGirl.net. Halimah is a Development & Communications intern for the Fall of 2015 at Pro Bono Net’s New York Headquarters.

The Practicising Law Institute, PLI, recently held a seminar aimed to train volunteers who are interested in helping people affected by disasters entitled “Providing Legal Assistance in the Aftermath of Disaster 2015.” Tiela Chalmers, the Chief Executive Officer of the Alameda County Bar Association, and member of Pro Bono Net’s Board of Directors, hosted the highly informative training. It took months to create and featured various segments that covered a wide range of topics concerning disaster relief.

In the process of establishing this seminar, Chalmers and other collaborating agencies spoke to several legal service individuals, who worked in various disaster-struck locations, to consult them on the most pressing issues that needed to be addressed in the aftermath of disasters. They concluded that there are numerous issues to address, however, the most urgent needs were: landlord and tenant problems, foreclosure and mortgage concerns, insurance, Federal Disaster Assistance, and consumer issues.

Julia Price Rosner, the Unemployment Insurance Coordinator at Manhattan Legal Services, explained the long and tedious process of applying for FEMA to compensate for personal loses after disasters.

She articulated two preconditions that need to happen to mobilize FEMA. First, the governor must request a presidential disaster declaration. Following this declaration, the president declares a disaster, which would consequently authorize a series of programs aimed to alleviate disaster-struck regions. Although Rosner’s explanation seemed simple and straightforward, she stressed the difficulty of actually acquiring aid from FEMA.

Rosner instructed the trainees to ensure that their clients have necessary documents required to complete the FEMA application form, including total household income, social security number, previous address and post-disaster address, bank routing number, insurance information, and a description of losses.

Perhaps the most difficult thing to do from the list is to compile a record of lost items. Recovering from a disaster that claimed much of one’s personal possessions is a harrowing experience that most don’t anticipate or prepare for; thus, recalling all the small and large items that stored some of the most valuable memories is not an easy task.

In order to be eligible for FEMA, Rosner notes that the homeowner or whoever is living in the affected house must be a US citizen, a non-citizen national, or a qualified alien. For the undocumented immigrant population affected by disasters, they can apply for FEMA if they have kids who are US citizens or if anyone living in the home with them is a US citizen.

The Federal Disaster Assistance segment closed with a discussion about Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA), a federal program only eligible for people who lost work or income directly due to a disaster. Rosner highlighted that DUA is a program of last resort, meaning that it’s difficult to obtain and only granted under certain conditions.

An individual who’s unemployed as a result of a disaster must first apply for state unemployment insurance. If the individual is denied, then he or she can apply for DUA provided that they prove denial of state unemployment insurance.

The key element Rosner repeatedly underscored is that Federal Disaster Assistance programs should be considered only after exhausting all other disaster relief options. She maintained that the federal government will ensure that there are no other disaster relief alternatives before granting it to disaster affected individuals.

To learn more about how to prepare for representing Disaster Victims, or view the “Providing Legal Assistance in the Aftermath of Disaster 2015” webinar, visit the Pracitising Law Institute’s website www.pli.edu.

 



Practising Law InstituteThis seminar/webcast was hosted by the
Practising Law Institute. To register for any webcasts or seminars go to www.pli.edu for more information.

At the core of Practising Law Institute’s mission is its commitment to offer training to members of the legal profession to support their pro bono service. PLI offers pro bono training, scholarships, and access to live programs, Webcasts, and On-Demand archived programs, as well as an extensive Pro Bono Membership program. For more information about PLI’s pro bono programs and activities, please visit www.pli.edu/probono. Follow PLI’s Pro Bono Group on LinkedIn, and on Twitter @ProBonoPLI.]