Volunteer attorneys can play an important role after a disaster, such as working with a legal aid organization to take on a pro bono case, sharing their expertise for a training, or providing brief legal advice to disaster survivors. Below are a few things to keep in mind if you're interested in volunteering. Are you a law student? Check out our page for law students here.
Become a Legal Volunteer
- Pro bono opportunities may not be available immediately after the disaster, as legal aid providers may still be assessing the need for volunteer assistance after the emergency.
- Some jurisdictions limit pro bono assistance to attorneys in their state/ territory, unless a Katrina Order is in effect. In the event the Supreme Court of the state or territory issues a Katrina Order, commonly referred to as the "Katrina Rule," out-of-state attorneys may provide direct legal assistance to individuals for a limited amount of time. For a list of states and territories that have implemented the rule on the provision of legal services following the determination of a major disaster, click here.
If you're interested in volunteering, but you're not sure where to start, please consider these options:
- Donate to a local legal aid organization assisting disaster survivors;
- Reach out to your local bar association to check if they are offering pro bono opportunities or trainings for lawyers interested in helping;
- Consider signing up for the American Bar Association's Free Legal Answers Program (if available in your state/territory). Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic where qualifying users post their civil legal questions for a pro bono attorney to review. Attorney volunteers, who must be authorized to provide pro bono assistance in their state, log in to the website, select questions to answer, and provide legal information and advice;
- Visit the American Bar Association Disaster Legal Services Program's Disaster Relief Pro Bono Portal for opportunities in your area.
If you're interested in learning more about disaster response and recovery, become an Advocate for Disaster Justice.
- Become a member of the Advocate Network by clicking here. It's free to join. Once you complete the membership form, someone from our team will review your request and approve you. If we have any questions about your interest in joining, we will let you know.
- Sign up for an upcoming training or webinar by clicking on the Trainings Calendar.
- Subscribe to the Advocates for Disaster Justice group listserv to receive general updates related to disaster response and recovery.
Below are several resources to familiarize yourself with pro bono after a disaster:
- Head over to our Fundamentals page to understand the basics of disaster legal aid.
- Many jurisdictions have "Disaster Handbooks" for pro bono attorneys. Check with your local bar association or legal aid for more information.
- If you're helping someone with their FEMA appeal, our resources here can help.
- When and How Pro Bono Attorneys Can Help: This is a segment of the free CLE program "Current and Emerging Issues in Disaster Response: Legal Strategies and Practices for Helping Survivors."
- In an effort to increase the number of lawyers who provide pro bono civil legal help following disasters, Voices for Civil Justice, the ABA Center for Pro Bono, Pro Bono Net, Lone Star Legal Aid, the ABA Young Lawyers Division, the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, and the Dentsu Aegis Network, and their respective legal aid and private marketing partners joined to create "5,000 Hours," a video that encourages pro bono legal volunteerism around disasters. We encourage you to watch and share widely.
Are you a law student? Check out our page for law students here.