September 9, 2011
Reacting to the devastating fires that have ravaged Central Texas this week, St. Mary’s University School of Law alumni David Chamberlain (J.D. ’78), president of the Austin Bar Association, and David Collins (J.D. ’04), president of the Bastrop County Bar Association, formed the Central Texas Wildfire Legal Response Team. The team has been on the ground in Bastrop County providing free legal services to fire victims since Wednesday morning.
“David Collins is trying to run his practice and help his neighbors at the same time; we are happy to do what we can to help,” said David Courreges (J.D. ’05), president of the St. Mary’s Law Alumni Association and co-chair of the response team.
Chamberlain spearheaded the effort utilizing the experience of fellow St. Mary’s graduate Karin Crump (J.D. ’97), who had previously donated her time to helping those affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The team lined up volunteers at five shelter locations to help fire victims piece their lives back together.
“There is a lot of work to be done and this is a long process,” said Courreges, who expects the legal clinics to continue for two weeks. “We expect the volume of clients to really increase once FEMA arrives early next week.”
Attorney volunteers from Austin and Bastrop are working four hour shifts, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, dealing with everything from insurance questions to the loss of documents such as birth certificates, wills, mortgages, etc.
Courreges estimates that by Thursday, the legal clinic volunteers had met with more than 100 families.
The volunteer outpouring has been more than enough (40 legal volunteers in the first two days), but they are accepting volunteers to act as legal resources to call on to field more complex legal questions.