Just days after the devastating tornados tore through Alabama and several other Southern states, a number of legal organizations stepped up to help the victims of the storms. In our state, the Alabama State Bar instituted its disaster assistance plan which has a number of initiatives, including a hotline (1-800-354-6154) that people can call for pro bono referrals and an online bulletin board where lawyers can ask for or offer assistance such as office furniture or temporary space. The free legal clinics are now open and helping the tornado victims.
State Bar staff are screening calls and referring callers to members of the Bar’s Young Lawyers Section. A lawyer will then return the call and answer legal questions at no charge. In the event more extensive legal assistance is required, matters are returned to the Volunteer Lawyers Program which then refers it to a VLP panel member. Anybody can make a financial contribution to the Alabama Law Foundation at: https://alfinc.org/donationform2.cfm. Monies collected will be distributed among disaster relief agencies.
The Alabama Association for Justice, an organization of trial lawyers, started taking requests from victims for help filling out insurance claims and matching them with volunteer lawyers. Local bar associations throughout the state are having walk-in clinics and other assistance programs. The University of Alabama School of Law held a clinic to help people fill out Federal Emergency Management Agency paperwork and were available to answer any legal questions. Alyce Spruell, a lawyer based in Tuscaloosa who is the president of the Alabama State Bar, observed:
It’s a really tough time here. A lot of our bar members have been out working in soup kitchens or doing debris removal. There’s some law practice going on right now, but not a lot.
The State Bar’s toll-free number allows residents with legal questions to call and be connected with a lawyer who is part of the bar’s Volunteer Lawyer Program. The State Bar’s Young Lawyers Program is actually working with FEMA representatives in their disaster recovery centers. The Bar has several walk-in clinics in affected areas where residents can come in for help. Our firm was spared from the tornados, but 100% of our lawyers are participating in the State Bar’s volunteer lawyer program. We are also helping to staff the free legal clinics. The firm has also donated money to the Red Cross to put toward its local disaster relief efforts.
The Alabama Lawyers Association dedicated half of the proceeds from its inaugural golf tournament to those in Alabama affected by tornadoes and storms that swept through the state. The tournament was held May 5th at Pine Tree Country Club in Birmingham. Larry Golston, a lawyer in our firm, is the current president of the Association.
The Young Lawyers Section at the State Bar, working with FEMA, is assisting homeowners and businesses wade through the thicket of federal paperwork required to be eligible to receive financial assistance. The Young Lawyers Section has worked hard with the disaster hotline and has provided initial legal assistance to the callers. The Bar, in conjunction with local bar associations, law school and volunteer groups, has hosted and will continue to host, more than 66 clinics which will be staffed by 285 members of our Volunteer Lawyers Program, law students and other volunteers.
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