With her law office flooded by Hurricane Harvey rains, Houston lawyer Karleana Farias asked Facebook friends on Aug. 31 for an office where she could use a fax machine, printer and copier to start the painful ordeal of dealing with insurance companies and FEMA.
Farias, who is partner in Farias Law Firm with her husband Leonel “Leo” Farias II, said she was overwhelmed with the speedy, generous response from other Houston lawyers who responded on Facebook or by text. She said she is touched that even lawyers who are “vicious” adversaries in the courtroom were kind, and she received offers of help from judges and court clerks as well as lawyers.
She accepted the offer from Houston lawyer Terisa Taylor.
With widespread flooding in Houston and Southeast Texas from Harvey, other firms are in the same situation as the Farias firm, and the State Bar of Texas sent out a survey asking lawyers if they need help or if they have office space to offer to other lawyers.
As of the morning of Aug. 31, more than 140 lawyers or firms have offered to provide housing or office space to fellow bar members, and 25 lawyers have reached out for help. The state bar will try to match them up, said G. Thomas Vick Jr., a partner in Vick Carney in Weatherford who is president of the State Bar of Texas.
Vick said lawyers have offered conference rooms, office space, copiers and staff and even a place to sleep at their house to the displaced attorneys.
This is not a new situation for Texas. After Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana in 2005, some firms relocated temporarily in Texas and some lawyers even relocated permanently in Texas. After Hurricane Rita hit Southeast Texas a few weeks later, lawyers from East Texas relocated temporarily elsewhere in Texas. The legal community likewise pulled together after Hurricane Ike hit Southeast Texas in 2008.
Karleana Farias said they have not figured out what her firm will do for office space in the short-term. She said the firm’s office, located on the first floor of an office building in north Houston, flooded to the ceiling. “We’ve lost everything in our business,” she said. The firm does family law, criminal defense, immigration law and other litigation.
Farias said she grew up in Puerto Rico, so she is accustomed to dealing with the devastation of hurricanes, but she was unprepared for the flooding in the firm’s office.
Farias said Farias Law Firm employs six people and they paid everyone today, even though she’s not able to bill clients or do much legal work without files. She does have access to email. Farias said boxes of files are drying in the garage of their Spring Branch-area house, which did not flood, and an IT professional is working on the firm’s server, which was at the office.
She said the firm, which rented space, did not have flood insurance, although it had storm, fire and wind insurance.
In addition to the helping spirit of other Houston lawyers, Farias also reports an unexpected benefit of her Facebook posting. She said she’s received a number of calls from potential clients with issues stemming from Harvey.