Wisconsin YLD Is Prepared to Help Victims of the Next Disaster
It can happen at any time—a flood, hurricane, earthquake, wildfire, terrorism, or other disaster. There’s little you can do to prevent a disaster. But there is something you can do to make certain your affiliate is ready and able to help victims of a disaster.
To ensure young lawyers and individual victims have the resources and information to answer their legal questions and also to help provide the assistance victims need, The State Bar of Wisconsin’s Young Lawyers Division (WI YLD) recently prepared a new Disaster Legal Services Manual and held a three-hour CLE designed to educate lawyers on common legal issues that arise following a disaster.
In 2008, Wisconsin suffered severe flooding, causing millions of dollars in damage, and many counties were declared disaster areas. When then-ABA YLD District Representative Jennifer Daugherty of Minnesota stepped in to provide victims with disaster legal services, Wisconsin had no DLS manual or formal training for its attorney volunteers to deal with disasters. Thanks to the hard work of the Wisconsin State Bar, it’s Pro Bono Coordinator, and Jennifer, many victims were helped and given the legal assistance they needed.
“They did a great job,” said Jill Kastner, President-Elect of WI YLD and the current District Representative for Minnesota and Wisconsin. “But we also learned valuable lessons on what we could do to handle it even better next time. . . . Those lessons were:
  • We needed a DLS Manual that covered the most common substantive issues; and
  • We needed training for DLS volunteers.”
Disaster Legal Services Manual
Every state should have an up-to-date DLS manual or handbook. Effective manuals include:
  • contact information for FEMA and other relevant federal, state, and local entities;
  • links/references to informative websites and other publicly available information sources, and
  • summaries on substantive areas of the law and answers to questions commonly asked in the wake of a disaster.
It took nearly a year, but a new DLS manual was created by the WI YLD and its Pro Bono Committee, led by Stacia Conneely of Legal Action of Wisconsin. This manual can be used as a resource by both attorneys and by individual victims. The manual is available free of charge to everyone on the WI YLD’s website.
Training for Attorney Volunteers
If a disaster strikes, victims may need more than a website or manual to help them sort through their legal issues. They may need knowledgeable attorney volunteers. That is why training potential volunteers is so critical.
On May 21, the WI YLD presented three hours of CLE training for attorney volunteers. The training focused on the most common issues faced by Wisconsin disaster victims, including information on FEMA, landlord tenant, employment, insurance, and common fraud issues. Five presenters donated their time for the afternoon, including three young lawyers.
The training was a great success, with more than fifty attorneys participating. The training is also available on the State Bar of Wisconsin’s website.
Why Your Affiliate Should Be Prepared
If you are a statewide or more local affiliate, having an up-to-date manual and training for prospective volunteers is essential if you want to be able to help victims of the next disaster to hit your area.
“Hopefully, you will never face a severe disaster,” said Kastner, “but even if you don’t, the training will still provide your members useful information on a wide variety of substantive legal issues as well as much desired CLE credit.”
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