Southern Lawyers Band Together To Offer Legal Aid to Hurricane Katrina Victims

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A group of lawyers and law students from the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina have created a new online service to provide legal aid to those in need.

Paul Massa was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After graduating with his BA and law degree from Tulane University, he settled in to the city that gave the world jazz, jambalaya and Mardi Gras to practice law. And, like every other resident of New Orleans, his world was turned upside down by Hurricane Katrina two weeks ago.

“I lost everything,” Massa says. “From my personal possessions to my office files, there wasn't a whole lot that I could salvage. The only thing I have left is my experience and my time. Seeing how many people are in need, I can't let those go to waste too.”

Working from borrowed office space in Atlanta, Paul joined forces with legal consulting firm TacitLogic LLC to create a network of lawyers and law students to provide legal and insurance resources to residents of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana affected by Hurricane Katrina's destructive forces.

“It's difficult enough to recover from a tragedy,” Massa says. “But it's even more difficult when all your documents, all your records have been destroyed, too. I realized that the first thing we could do to help was create an online website where people can start rebuilding their lives…with or without the help of me and other willing attorneys.”

Part of the legal aid effort is a group of affected law students from New Orleans-based Tulane College of Law. Students like Pete Lamb are helping by contributing Pro Bono services, as well as creating a running blog (available at blog.katrinalegal.com now) to provide up-to-date information for those in need.

“I evacuated the Saturday before the storm to Houston, where I was for 10 days,” says Lamb. “I had to figure out what I needed to do and how to do it after I evacuated. With the blog, I'm able to pass on what I learned about insurance, FEMA, the Red Cross, rent issues, clothing and more.”

Residents from affected states can now visit KatrinaLegal.com or call 1-866-Kat-Legal to find a vast array of legal, insurance and aid resources. Among others, these resources include forms and information about flood and non-flood insurance claims; unforeseen expenses from lodging, rental cars, food and clothing; FEMA documents for money due and household issues; identity theft prevention including requesting a new social security number and credit protection; bankruptcy filing; and tax filing, extensions, donations and deductions.

Most importantly, visitors to KatrinaLegal.com will have the opportunity to create a legal and insurance needs Aid Profile on the site that will be reviewed free of charge by Paul's group of lawyers. Upon reviewing each Aid Profile, an attorney affiliated with KatrinaLegal.com will contact the visitor to offer free advice on how best to resolve their legal and insurance issues. Many visitors will even qualify for Pro Bono assistance based on income levels and needs. Lawyers interested in helping affected residents from these areas can also create an Aid Profile to offer assistance to those in need.

“This tragedy has had a tremendous affect on me,” Massa says. “I can only imagine how difficult it is for others. The best we can do is to work together to rebuild the communities we all still love. It is in this spirit that this group of legal professionals is here to help.”

KatrinaLegal.com is offering aid to all residents of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Louisiana, including residents of Mobile and Montgomery, Jackson and Biloxi, New Orleans and Pensacola, among other cities.

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Paul Massa