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Law students can make a difference for hurricane victims

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Amid the flood of natural disasters literally flooding parts of our nation, many law students and American Bar Association members alike are wondering how they can help those in need, whether it is with donations, supplies, manpower, or legal assistance. Before the Bar has already posted about resources and opportunities to help. Here is an update with more resources from various bar associations.

While licensed attorneys from the ABA are obtaining special permission to practice in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and other affected states to assist displaced citizens and those with extensive hurricane damage, the ABA is also mobilizing legal resources to help via FEMA and local legal aid offices. Specifically, the Young Lawyers Division is providing services through the Disaster Legal Services Program, with hotlines set up in various states to assist in disaster-related legal issues, including bankruptcy, contract and contractor problems, landlord/tenant, wills, and insurance.

In the aftermath of these natural disasters, ABA law school students would be wise to volunteer with these and other various state pro bono offices to gain valuable insight into the practicalities of these types of situations and cases; additionally, it will benefit students by showing potential future employers that they are capable of taking action during high stress and disastrous situations while also demonstrating compassion for clients.

Law school students can also help by directing victims and survivors to these resources within the ABA. Additionally, students are able to lend support by donating blood, providing diapers and wipes to local diaper banks, donating non-perishable food items to local food banks, or, if in a local affected area, offering a donation of their time by volunteering in person at any of these places. Contacting major relief effort organizations — such as the Salvation Army, the United Way, Global Giving, or the American Red Cross — is the first step in ensuring placement where volunteers are needed the most. As always, any financial contribution to a reputable organization is immensely effective in supporting people who need relief from storm destruction.

State bar associations in Texas, for Hurricane Harvey, and Florida, for Hurricane Irma, have specific aid funds to which students can donate. The Florida Bar Foundation has set up the Legal Storm Aid Resources Fund, the Texas Bar Foundation created the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund, and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation established the Hurricane Harvey Legal Aid Fund.

Some law students in affected areas or nearby communities have been stepping up to assist in the midst of these tragic disasters. The University of Houston Law Center students sprung into action immediately, volunteering at shelters and emergency relief centers, opening up their homes, and offering help and rescue with big trucks and even a kayak to rescue those displaced by Hurricane Harvey. When Hurricane Irma hit, Florida State University students gathered together to create care packages for those in south Florida who were affected by the storm.

To learn more about the various volunteer opportunities mentioned, please visit the links embedded in the article above.

Dayna Maeder Dayna Maeder is a civil litigation attorney at McConnaughhay, Coonrod, Pope, Weaver, & Stern, P.A., working with state agencies and national insurance corporations. Dayna is a YLD associate editor who enjoys her volunteer work as a litigation consultant and trial advocate trainer for the Leon County Teen Court program.