Published on April 15, 2013 | by LawNews
Students Get Hands-on Legal Experience Helping Those Affected by Superstorm Sandy
Students from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University were on the scene helping victims of Superstorm Sandy with their legal problems soon after the storm blew out to sea. Through the Disaster Recovery Clinic, established by Professor Michael Haber, second- and third-year law students have been providing supervised pro bono legal assistance on a wide range of issues affecting local small businesses and individuals as they recover from Sandy.
A salon and spa was the first business to receive free legal assistance from the students. The salon was unable to reopen for business after Sandy because the landlord did not make the necessary structural repairs to the building. The students drafted a retainer agreement, conducted client interviews, reviewed the commercial lease and other contracts, and sent a notice of termination to the landlord, in addition to conducting extensive legal research. The matter is still in progress.
In the Disaster Recovery Clinic, students are responsible for handling the investigation, negotiation, appeals, mediations and trials for matters that have a serious impact on their clients’ lives. “As with all of our clinics, the Disaster Recovery Clinic provides experiential learning that cannot be acquired in a classroom setting,” said Dean Eric Lane. “This clinic also specifically responds to student interest in aiding with relief efforts in the wake of Sandy by giving them a means of providing legal assistance to local communities in need.”
As the students continue efforts on behalf of small businesses, the next stage for the clinic will be representing individuals affected by Sandy. To fund this expansion of the clinic’s efforts, Haber and Hofstra Law secured a $100,000 grant from the Robin Hood Foundation and a $25,000 grant from the Long Island Community Foundation. “The level of funding from these organizations reflects their enthusiasm for the level of professional assistance Hofstra Law students have been providing for Sandy victims,” said Haber.
The cases taken on by the clinic encompass representation of various constituencies, including homeowners in disputes with insurers, tenants in disputes with landlords, individuals in administrative appeals of denied FEMA grants, and transactional representation of nonprofits and community groups that seek to provide assistance to communities affected by Sandy.
The clinic’s work connects directly to several courses: Insurance Law, Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, Contracts, and Property and Real Estate Law. It also gives students the opportunity to apply lessons from Property, Real Estate, and Evidence. And in its efforts on behalf of small businesses, nonprofits and community groups, the clinic’s work offers an opportunity to use lessons from Business Organizations and other business law classes to help real clients confronting significant legal issues.
Students who saw Sandy’s devastation firsthand are enthusiastic and committed to this effort. “The opportunity to provide free legal services as Long Islanders try to recover from the losses they suffered has been very meaningful,” said Jenna Segal, a second-year student who is participating in the Disaster Recovery Clinic. She added, “And while I ‘do good’ for this community, I am also gaining valuable real-life work experience — a win-win for everyone.”