UB Law School clinic to help hurricane victims
by: Bennett Loudon
The University at Buffalo School of Law has launched a new law clinic — The Puerto Rico Recovery Assistance Legal Clinic — to provide free legal assistance to the victims of Hurricane Maria.
Applications are now being accepted and eight students will be selected to receive about two weeks of intensive training in preparation for a 10-day trip to the island in January.
The students, who will receive academic credit for their participation, will work under the supervision of Kim Diana Connolly, professor and vice dean for advocacy and experiential education, and director of the law school’s clinical legal education program.
“We are still in the process of working with experts on the ground to figure out what their legal needs are going to be in January,” Connolly said.
“We’re not deciding what we’re going to do until we hear from our partners what they need. So we are still in the process of designing the curriculum,” Connolly said.
Disaster-related legal issues typically include landlord/tenant problems, insurance claims, FEMA claims and consumer issues, such as contractor fraud.
UB faculty, local alumni and other experts will help provide the training for students. Some training will be done by video conferencing between Buffalo and Puerto Rico.
“We’ve had a lot of alumni interest in providing their expertise, so we’ll be able to have students with iPads down there connecting with alumni who will be able to provide some support,” Connolly said.
A fundraising campaign with a $30,000 goal is underway to help pay for travel costs.
Connolly also is planning to blog about the project while she’s in Puerto Rico.
“People are going to be able to follow along on the clinical legal education website here at the law school,” Connolly said.
Luis Chiesa, a criminal law professor at the law school and a native of Puerto Rico, will act as an academic consultant.
“Access to justice is at the heart of everything we do at the law school and this initiative is a perfect example,” Dean Aviva Abramovsky said in a news release.
UB School of Law is currently hosting three students from the University of Puerto Rico School of Law who could not continue their studies in Puerto Rico because of the hurricane.
“We have a long history of providing pro bono service and teaching our students to view the world with compassion, knowing that regardless of where they ultimately choose to work, they have a moral responsibility, as lawyers and as leaders, to use their skills and knowledge to ensure justice and to give back,” she said.
Donations to support the effort can be made online at: https://goo.gl/SHvRcF.
For more information, call (716) 645-2167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.