One of the lesser known responsibilities of the Young Lawyers’ Section is the responsibility for having a plan in place to respond to natural disasters that impact Arkansas. This program is coordinated with the American Bar Association and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Once FEMA declares an emergency, the YLS is contacted to provide appropriate legal assistance for those harmed by the disaster.
The American Bar Association ("ABA") has provided pro bono assistance to storm victims since 1978, when the ABA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency ("FEMA") agreed to utilize the ABA's Young Lawyers Division ("YLD") in staffing toll-free hotlines open to disaster victims. In 1992, the YLD entered into a written contract with FEMA pursuant to which the Division agreed to mobilize young lawyers to organize the provision of free civil legal services to low-income disaster victims. The hotlines are the vehicle through which those services are provided. It is very important to note the YLD responds only when the President declares a disaster area and FEMA specifically asks the YLD to get involved. FEMA specifies the area(s) in which the legal services are to be provided. The YLD then contacts the YLD district representative in the affected area(s). The district representative then recruits volunteers to staff the hotlines and provide assistance. If this process sounds cumbersome, it is.
FEMA requested our Arkansas YLS's assistance in response to the deadly tornados of several years ago. Under the most able leadership of Baxter Sharp, your YLS got together numerous volunteers and provided countless hours of legal assistance. Members of the Arkansas Bar Association, and in particular the Young Lawyers Section ("YLS"), can and should help. For more information on how you can volunteer for the disaster relief program, Contact the Arkansas Bar Association.