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Lawyers round up Katrina relief
Virginia State Bar and Bar Association organizing donations of legal services and money for Hurricane Katrina's victims.

 Efforts to help Hurricane Katrina victims take many forms. In Houston, evacuees clamor for donated clothing last month. In Virginia, lawyers are helping rebuild Gulf Coast judicial systems and give free legal help to evacuees who have relocated to the state.
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Date published: 10/20/2005

By BILL FREEHLING

Virginia lawyers are pitching in to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina, offering free legal assistance to evacuees and helping attorneys in affected areas.

The Virginia State Bar has led an effort to recruit and train lawyers to give free legal help to evacuees who have relocated to the state.

And the Virginia Bar Association has set up a fund to help rebuild judicial systems in Louisiana and Mississippi.

About 440 lawyers have signed up to do pro bono work to aid evacuees, said Mary Yancey Spencer, deputy executive director of the Virginia State Bar.

"We've had a tremendous response," Spencer said.

She said volunteers are receiving training on issues facing evacuees--including handling insurance claims and getting relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Lawyers get continuing-education credit for the hourlong training session.

A letter in the October edition of Virginia Lawyer, the official publication of the Virginia State Bar, urges all attorneys to donate 10 hours of pro bono work. The letter is co-written by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Leroy R. Hassell Sr.

The Virginia Bar Association has raised about $72,000 to be split evenly by bar associations in Louisiana and Mississippi, said the organization's Communications Director Caroline Cardwell.

The courts and entire legal system have been devastated in areas affected by Katrina, Cardwell said. The money will help lawyers get back on their feet and resume providing legal services.

Cardwell said money has come in from both law firms and individual lawyers. The group is still taking donations.

Cardwell said the bar association has conducted such fundraising during previous disasters, including incidents in Virginia.

The assistance fund is open to people outside the legal profession. Anybody wishing to make a tax-deductible donation can go to vba.org.

To reach BILL FREEHLING: 540/374-5424 bfreehling@freelancestar.com