Disasters both underscore and exacerbate inequality. While wealthier families rebuild and recover, the ripples of devastation can continue to marginalize lower-income families, impacting their housing, health, education, and economic security for years and even decades. This kind of instability has a profound impact that can last generations. But lawyers can play a unique role in changing this narrative.
Last month, in partnership with Kilpatrick & Townsend and Pepperdine Caruso School of Law, NLSLA hosted one of the nation’s first conferences dedicated to disaster legal services. Attorneys and paralegals from across the country joined—some in person, many virtually—to better understand the role that legal aid and the private bar can play in ensuring low-income families and communities have the help they need to begin again after a catastrophic event.
While legal aid groups have always played a role in helping low-income people to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of disaster, global warming has increased both the frequency and severity of these events, which have a particularly devastating impact on low-income families and communities. In the last few years, as we have seen the unequal impact of fires and other heat-related events on the communities we serve, disaster legal aid has become a more central part of NLSLA’s services.
Today, NLSLA is one of just eleven legal aid groups across the country to receive federal funding for legal services in the aftermath of disaster, and it has focused that work on helping the low-income victims of the Southern California fires and, increasingly, on ensuring low-income communities are protected as temperatures rise. We have taken a leadership role in engaging other legal aid groups and pro bono counsel in doing this work, and this summer’s conference was a part of that effort.
The day’s keynote speaker was Dr. Lucy Jones, founder of the Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society and one of the foremost seismologists in the world. CLICK HERE to hear her riveting talk, or to watch any of the day’s sessions on disaster legal aid.