NYSBA Proposes Rule FacilitatingPro Bono Disaster Services

Wednesday, August 1, 2007 - 01:00

Recently at the summer meeting in Cooperstown, NY, the New York State Bar Association's House of Delegates endorsed a new rule which, if adopted by the Unified Court System, would allow more attorneys to provide pro bono services in the aftermath of a mass disaster. The rule, modeled after a measure approved by American Bar Association, would allow out of state lawyers to temporarily practice in another jurisdiction, in order to allow them to provide free legal services to those most affected by the disaster.

New York State Bar Association President Kathryn Grant Madigan said: "New York Lawyers are some the most talented and generous legal minds in the country. When a disaster strikes, families are affected in a many different ways and lawyers can a significant role in helping victims recover from a disaster. Under this new proposal, in the event of a major disaster in New York, attorneys from other states will be able to lend their expertise to those most in need, at no charge. Obviously, we never want to see a disaster happen, but when one occurs, we want to ensure that volunteer legal assistance is available."

Ms. Madigan continued, "In addition, if a disaster occurred in another state, lawyers from that jurisdiction would be permitted to shift their practice to New York on a temporary basis so that they could continue to serve their clients."

The Association's Committee on Mass Disaster Response reviewed and approved a slightly modified version of the American Bar Association's model court rule on the provision of legal services following the determination of a major disaster. The rule would allow out of state attorneys to render pro bono service to disaster victims for a short time, through established, designated programs. It also would allow attorneys from other states to volunteer in New York, should such a disaster occur here.

The rule was inspired by the hurricanes that devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. The House of Delegates is the official policy making body of the New York State Bar Association.