Media Contact: Stephen Barr, Legal Services Corporation
Contact: Jeff Billington, National Legal Aid & Defender Association
Phone: 202-452-0620, ext. 230
Four Groups Create Online Resource to Provide Information for Disaster Victims
WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 17, 2008 - A new Web site launched by four national legal organizations will help victims of disasters find valuable information and assistance to speed recovery from hurricanes, fires, floods or other disasters. The site is sponsored by the American Bar Association, Legal Services Corporation, National Legal Aid & Defender Association and Pro Bono Net.
The site - www.disasterlegalservices.org - lists information for people who need help and the lawyers who want to volunteer to help them, said ABA President H. Thomas Wells Jr. "By pooling the resources of our organizations, we can provide services in a timely, efficient manner."
The Web site seeks to:
* Serve as a centralized national resource for legal aid and pro bono lawyers across the country on legal issues related to all types of disasters
* Recruit and help mobilize pro bono lawyers in the aftermath of a disaster
* Provide accurate and timely information on legal issues related to disasters to the low- and moderate-income public
Helaine Barnett, president of Legal Services Corporation, said, "People affected by disasters face so many difficulties. Our goal is to make it easier for them to find information that will help them rebuild their lives. This site will guide them in finding legal assistance, and the links on the site will allow LSC-funded attorneys and volunteer lawyers to quickly find the information they need to assist persons affected by natural disasters."
"This comprehensive site provides both individuals steering through the personal aftermath of a major disaster and legal aid lawyers striving to provide their clients with the most complete legal advice possible with a treasure trove of information that they might not consider at first," said National Legal Aid & Defender Association President & CEO Jo-Ann Wallace.
"The site allows legal aid lawyers to point their clients toward information that they might not consider at first. For example, the site offers links to the IRS Disaster Tax Relief site, the Small Business Administration, Disaster Unemployment, FEMA and food stamp application. Those important links will help the people impacted by a disaster address concerns that surface after the initial shock."
"In the aftermath of a disaster, lawyers often want to volunteer their services, but aren?t sure how to connect with those in need. The new site will present opportunities for attorneys to get involved and resources to help them be effective advocates," said Mark O'Brien, executive director of Pro Bono Net.
The new disaster site builds on a prior collaboration - www.katrinalegalaid.org - by the four organizations and will provide a link to that site. The Katrina site has provided invaluable assistance to disaster victims and lawyers. Between September 2005, when it was launched, and the end of July 2008, the Katrina site has had more than 16,000 unique visitors. These visitors made more than 163,000 visits, making more than 376,000 library downloads and viewing more than 231,000 pages.
With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
The Legal Services Corporation is a federally funded nonprofit organization that promotes equal access to justice and provides high quality civil legal assistance to low-income individuals and families. LSC funds 137 programs with more than 920 offices around the nation.
The National Legal Aid & Defender Association champions effective legal assistance for people who cannot afford legal counsel, serves as a collective voice for both civil legal services and public defense services throughout the nation and provides a wide range of services and benefits to its individual and organizational members. Founded in 1911, NLADA is the oldest and largest national, nonprofit membership organization devoting all of its resources to advocating equal access to justice for all Americans. Visit www.nlada.org for more information.
Pro Bono Net (www.probono.net ) is a national nonprofit that increases access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer participation. Founded in 1998 with support from the Open Society Institute, Pro Bono Net has created broad and powerful justice networks across the United States and Canada. With more than 50,000 members drawn from legal aid, pro bono, court and law school programs in more than 30 states and Canadian provinces, Pro Bono Net's reach encompasses approximately two-thirds of the poverty population and lawyers in the United States.
Barbara Power, American Bar Association
Pam Weisz, Pro Bono Net
212-760-2554, ext. 485