After a very rewarding internship with a public interest firm on the Mississippi Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, I started with the Firm in 2007 and quickly began working to cultivate a full-time law practice based on my passion – assisting entities prepare for and respond to natural disasters. I saw an opportunity to apply knowledge gained through my “day-job” to help those less fortunate and began volunteering with the Disaster Legal Services Team in 2014 through the Young Lawyers Division of the ABA. I have now served several years as Vice-Director and remain a Team Member.
I love my public and private entity clients but working with individual disaster survivors really provides an additional perspective and makes you appreciate things. Most recently, I volunteered at the Disaster Recovery Center in Hattiesburg after several of the surrounding communities were impacted by a severe tornado in January 2017. The Recovery Centers are established following an event to provide a one-stop shop for survivors and are a great example of people from multiple organizations and agencies coming together to help those in need.
Within the Hattiesburg Center, there were a lot of people applying for assistance and many had issues proving their home ownership. In the South, one generation after the next tends to stay in the family homestead, and the paperwork proving home ownership becomes outdated. It can be a mess. But, even though they were often stressed and frustrated, the people I worked with were always very nice – and very appreciative of the help. Whether they had more complex problems or just a few basic questions, they’re always very grateful for the help. And, even with the many types of assistance available at one of these Recovery Centers, there are always issues that can only be resolved with guidance from an attorney. We are needed – and appreciated – and to be able to help others under these circumstances is very rewarding.