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Volunteering After a Disaster

Tips on having a meaningful impact after a disaster

After a major natural disaster, many attorneys and legal professionals want to use their skills and knowledge to assist those impacted. Here are tips to consider on how to volunteer following a natural disaster.

Follow the Lead of Local Legal Aid Providers. Local staff are busy assessing, formulating, and implementing their post disaster plans. Local pro bono staff will make a call to action as volunteers are needed.

Be Patient. While there is urgency following a disaster, the pro bono opportunities may not be immediately available. Some volunteer opportunities may be immediate, such as attending a disaster recovery center to provide initial advice and assistance; some will happen within a couple of weeks, such as assisting with FEMA appeals and the underlying issues; and some will be long term, such as foreclosure prevention. For a more detailed introduction to volunteering after a disaster and the timeline, please review Chapter 1 of the Texas Disaster Manual.

Be Prepared. Waiting for pro bono opportunities is the best time to prepare. Educational materials are available through Texas Disaster Legal Help, a collaboration between Lone Star Legal Aid, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. These materials are designed to improve the mobilization of pro bono volunteers during the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Registration is required.

Sign Up for Opportunities. Pro bono opportunities will be shared in multiple locations; however, signing up for a newsletter is the fastest way to learn about them. In addition to Texas Disaster Legal Help, you can also sign up directly with the legal aid provider:

o Lone Star Legal Aid, Sign-Up Form. Be sure to complete the Newsletter sign-up after registering as a volunteer.

o Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, volunteer opportunities are posted on their website

o Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Sign-Up Form.

Consider a Non-Disaster Case. As legal aid staff attorney resources are diverted to serving disaster survivors, other legal needs may not be met due to limited staff resources. By volunteering on a non-disaster matter, you will be assisting in disaster relief efforts.

Review this Article on Assisting Disaster Survivors.

Jessie G. Campbell / Supervising Attorney – Private Attorney Involvement / Lone Star Legal Aid