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The Louisiana State Bar Association is scrambling to aid its members, half of whom have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina and left without offices or homes. The bar’s office, in downtown New Orleans, was wiped out by the hurricane and its staff is scattered, said its president, Frank X. Neuner Jr. “I think they all got out, but they are traumatized,” he said, adding that they were in no position to try and put the bar back together right now because they were dealing with personal issues.”I am the bar staff,” said Neuner, who is in Lafayette, an inland city about 130 miles west of New Orleans. He has set up a bar office in exile from the office of his firm, Laborde & Neuner. The bar’s executive director, Loretta Larsen, is also in Lafayette, he said. Katrina has hit the bar hard. “Almost half of the Louisiana Bar are displaced,” Neuner said, pausing a moment before he could continue speaking.About 5,000 practicing members of the bar were in New Orleans Parish and another 3,000 members were in nearby Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes. All of them are out of operation, with no homes or offices.Neuner said he has been getting calls from colleagues hit by the hurricane asking for housing and office space. Lawyers at larger firms can take refuge at their firms’ other offices around the state or in other states — but small firms have few options. “I’m worried about the ones that don’t have friends. Some of the solos and real small outfits might not know other folks in other parts of the state,” Neuner said.Solo practitioners and even firms with 10 or 20 lawyers who’ve had their offices flooded can’t send bills or get checks from clients, Neuner pointed out. “How do they pay employees?” he asked. Their client files and computers, in many cases, have been destroyed by floodwaters.Neuner said all the State Bar’s data is backed up, but it’s in a secure — and now inaccessible — site on Canal Street.The same goes for the New Orleans and Louisiana courts, which are likewise decimated. “One ofour Supreme Court justices is organizing an expedition for [Friday] to retrieve the Supreme Court servers. They are in the French Quarter so don’t have water damage — but now the concern is looters,” Neuner said. He said the justices originally planned the scouting expedition for next week but are going earlier because of a fear of looting.With the Louisiana Bar crippled and the New Orleans Bar Association decimated, the Baton Rouge Bar Association is the largest functioning bar in the state. The director of the Baton Rouge Bar, Ann G. Scarle, said its community doubled in population overnight and that bar members are trying to find housing and office space for their colleagues.That bar, as well as the local bar associations in Lafayette and Shreveport, which are closest to New Orleans, have jumped in to help Louisiana lawyers and to coordinate legal aid efforts to all hurricane victims.The Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Shreveport bar associations are hosting Web sites with information on how to give or receive aid for the state’s lawyers. The Louisiana Bar’s Web site was temporarily disabled last week, because its server, located in Metairie, was down. The Lafayette Parish Bar Association Web site, www.lafayettebar.org, for example, allows communication between local bar members and displaced attorneys in need of aid.The Louisiana Bar also is starting a relief fund for that state’s displaced lawyers. But, without an office or a bank to work from, it is relying on the state’s local bars to collect the money. Neuner and other State Bar officers are scrambling to organize legal aid efforts for Louisiana hurricane victims, while at the same time trying to put their bar back together.In Lafayette, the Louisiana Bar is holding a CLE on Friday to train lawyers in Louisiana and East Texas to fill out the Federal Emergency Management Agency forms that hurricane victims must submit to receive federal aid.Members of Louisiana’s surviving local bars also are mobilizing to participate in a disaster hotline launched by the American Bar Association to provide legal aid to hurricane victims.

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