With the sun shining and Hurricane Harvey moved out of Houston, some firms have reopened Houston offices for lawyers and staff who can drive there safely. But with flooded-out Texans continuing to pour into shelters, some Houston lawyers are fitting their legal work into days filled with volunteer tasks such as setting up cots at large shelters in Houston or helping neighbors salvage belongings from flooded houses.
“You are sitting at home, watching TV, saying I have to do something,” said Kelly Rose, a partner in Baker Botts in Houston, whose home in the River Oaks neighborhood in Houston was not affected by flood waters from the nation’s most extreme rain event ever.
On Monday, even as Hurricane Harvey continued to pelt the Houston area with rain, Kelly said she donated a load of items to a big American Red Cross shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston. That night, she had her husband drive her back and she worked an overnight volunteer shift at the GRB helping to distribute clothes, shoes, diapers and formula to Harvey victims.
“We ran out of blankets. We ran out of cots. We ran out of towels,” Rose said, adding that the people who had sought shelter were very understanding.
Rose also worked Wednesday night at a shelter using her typing skills to do intake and planned to go back Thursday night for another overnight shift. The corporate securities lawyer was in the office Thursday, catching up on some work but admits that like many Houstonians, she has been focused in recent days on helping people thrown out of their homes due to flooding.
Kate Cornelius, an associate with McGuireWoods in Houston, who has volunteered at shelters at the GRB and at the NRG Center, said the volunteer spirit from Houstonians is incredible.
Cornelius said she and her sisters-in-law worked late night shifts at the GRB on Tuesday, where they picked up trash outside the building, set up cots and answered questions from Harvey victims. Thursday morning, she worked a 7 a.m. to noon shift at the BakerRipley shelter at the NRG Center, where she moved tables, chairs and kitchen items as the volunteers prepared for an influx of storm victims set to arrive later today.
Her husband, Trey Cornelius, an attorney who works as a tax manager at Deloitte Tax in Houston, has been helping neighbors and friends move items in flooded houses. Kate Cornelius said their house located near Rice University stayed dry, and she was doing client work at home when not volunteering.
Michael Bernick, an associate with Reed Smith in Houston, said he spent several hours Tuesday evening setting up cots in the GRB, and on Wednesday, volunteered as an escort at the medical booth.
Bernick said his West University house stayed dry, although flooded roads kept him home for a while. He said he worked from home over the weekend and until early Tuesday, and planned to work from home again Wednesday night and today.
Both Kelly and Cornelius said they would volunteer at the legal clinics that will soon be in operation to assist Harvey victims with legal issues and paperwork for filing claims with insurance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration.