About 90 Baker Botts lawyers and their in-house attorney clients stepped up Thursday night to field at least 175 calls from Texans who had legal questions related to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey.
The firm, along with the Houston Bar Association, sponsored a special LegalLine phone bank, where people called in anonymously for advice on issues they face in the wake of the massive flooding in the Houston area from Harvey, which hit the Texas coast on Aug. 25.
Keri Brown, a tax partner in Houston who chairs the Houston office’s pro bono committee, said many of the people who called in had questions about potential government buyouts for their property, particularly homes located in areas of Houston that have flooded three times in three years. Other big topics were questions about the Federal Emergency Management Agency claims process, and how to deal with insurance companies. Many callers also had landlord/tenant questions, Brown said.
On Friday, the firm provided space for two training sessions for lawyers who want to volunteer at legal clinics that are providing legal advice to people on Harvey issues. The firm also developed a Harvey Crisis Response guide online for people who have questions.
Saundra Brown, manager of the disaster response unit at Lone Star Legal Aid, who led the two training sessions, said landlord/tenant issues are pressing matters right now. “There’s a lot of really bad eviction notices,” Brown said.
Brown also said Lone Star and volunteer lawyers have been staffing information tables at three major shelters in Houston that were set up for people who were flooded out by Harvey. The volunteers have been providing legal advice. Alistair Dawson, a partner at Beck Redden in Houston and president of the HBA, said the Houston Volunteer Lawyers will help staff legal aid clinics that will be established in the more permanent disaster recovery centers being created by FEMA and the American National Red Cross.
Dawson said volunteers are ready to answer Harvey questions at 21 legal clinics that had been previously scheduled for this month throughout Houston. The HBA has also expanded hours this month for its LegalLine, which is being staffed by volunteer lawyers from a number of firms with offices in Houston.