This month marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the devastating toll it took on the Gulf Coast. The legal profession had a key role to play in helping those affected by the storm rebuild their lives and their communities in both the immediate aftermath and the long-term.
Residents of New Orleans and the surrounding areas were confronted by a slew of critical legal needs in the wake of the hurricane, but the region lacked the capacity to adequately meet the demand. Pro bono lawyers and law students from around the country stepped in, both remotely and by travelling to the Gulf Coast, to help local legal services organizations and assist with housing issues, reconstruction of important legal documents destroyed by the storm, insurance claims, and other pressing needs. Read more here and listen to a StoryCorps recording in which The Pro Bono Project shares first-person memories of the amazing and generous pro bono response and creative collaborations that took place during the aftermath of Katrina.
The PBEye has previously written about how lawyers can meaningfully contribute to recovery efforts. Lessons learned from the pro bono response to September 11 were applied in response to Katrina; lessons learned from Katrina were implemented during the response to Superstorm Sandy. Going forward, the legal community must continue to develop protocols and resources that will enable pro bono lawyers to be proactive, efficient, and effective in response to future crises. Law firms, legal services organizations, law schools, and others are actively engaged in advance planning, developing innovations such as the Disaster Assistance Recovery Tool, an app aimed at helping survivors of natural disasters through the process of applying for disaster relief benefits. This anniversary is a visible reminder that there is still much work to be done to strengthen the legal community’s disaster preparedness infrastructure so that we can more effectively leverage pro bono efforts and resources to address critical needs.
Hat tip to PBI intern Ali Remick for her help with this post.