Disaster Recovery: How You Can Help

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Florida Free Legal Answers: Although attorneys are strongly cautioned against engaging in the solicitation of hurricane victims (which is prohibited by Rule 4-7.18), the Florida Free Legal Answers program offers a relatively easy way to lend your expertise. Sign up to to quickly and easily answer questions from the public. It is easy to do, takes only a couple of minutes and can mean so much to those in need.

Solicitation includes any direct contact face-to-face, by telephone, by fax or telegraph. It includes passing out business cards or other law firm information. Lawyers cannot mail solicitations within 30 days of the disaster. Any direct mail solicitations must comply and be filed with The Florida Bar for review. Fees from solicitation, as any form of advertising that does not comply with the rules, are subject to forfeiture in cases involving solicitation or other violation of the advertising rules.

Lawyers with questions concerning whether their own future conduct violates bar rules may call the Ethics Hotline toll free at (800) 235-8619. Volunteer lawyers who are offering their services to accident victims at no charge do not violate the anti-solicitation rule.

The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division’s Disaster Relief – FEMA Hotline: Certainly the most active time of year for the Florida Plan is hurricane season; however, the hotline is activated during any declaration of emergency in the state. This would include, but is not limited to, floods, tornadoes, wildfires, and other disasters. The Florida Bar YLD, working in conjunction with the ABA Young Lawyers Section, is soliciting volunteers to help with ongoing and future disaster relief efforts, pursuant to the Florida Plan. Under the Florida Plan, volunteers provide basic legal services for low-income individuals in non-fee generating cases. The volunteers assist by returning calls placed to the YLD’s 1-800 hotline or at FEMA centers. The most pressing need is for volunteers to return calls.

National Disaster Legal Aid Advocacy Center welcomes all advocates and volunteers from nonprofit legal aid organizations, bar associations, pro bono counsel from law firms and corporations, law school students and faculty, and allied nonprofits working on disaster legal aid. To sign up, please click here. The website has links to a multitude of disaster relief manuals and training tools.

Florida Pro Bono Matters is another way to assist Floridians via an interactive website funded by The Florida Bar Foundation — both in hurricane recovery and year-round. You can view descriptions of available pro bono opportunities and indicate an interest in any of them; you then will be contacted by the posting organization with more information.