Texas Access to Justice Foundation
Oct 28, 2008

Contact: Meg Mo, 512.494.2687

Free Online Legal Help Now Available for Hurricane Ike Victims

AUSTIN, Texas -- Responding to the broad range of legal problems resulting from Hurricane Ike, Texas legal aid organizations and the Houston Bar Association have developed an online resource to assist Texans affected by the disaster in obtaining free legal information. The new service, called LiveHelp, is available now and enables Hurricane Ike victims to conduct a live online chat with attorneys recruited by the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program. Attorneys will answer questions and also refer those seeking help to legal resources specific to FEMA appeals and other disaster-related issues.

LiveHelp is free and can be reached through the Web site www.TexasLawHelp.org. Attorneys are available weekdays from 1-5 pm. When help is not available, online users may leave a message. The TexasLawHelp Web site also contains information on legal resources for disaster victims.

Houston attorney Andrew Strong spearheaded the LiveHelp project for the State Bar of Texas' Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee. "We are incredibly excited about this new service, which provides attorneys located anywhere in the nation the opportunity to help people without the challenges of travel to remote locations," Strong said. "Through an online chat session, volunteer attorneys can complement and expand on available on- the-ground legal services."

The Houston Bar Association, working with Lone Star Legal Aid and Texas Legal Services Center, have provided extensive training to over 200 attorneys who will be offering pro bono legal aid to Hurricane Ike victims. Attorneys interested in signing up to volunteer for LiveHelp can do so through the State Bar of Texas Web site at http://www.texasbar.com/ikevolunteers.

Lone Star Legal Aid and Texas Legal Services Center have already been swamped with calls from Hurricane Ike victims who have been improperly denied assistance from FEMA or Texas state agencies. Other issues facing Hurricane Ike victims include contractor fraud, the wrongful denial of insurance claims, and problems getting landlords to complete essential repairs.

Texas is the seventh state to implement LiveHelp on its statewide legal services Web site for consumers, and the first state to provide LiveHelp assistance using volunteer attorneys. LiveHelp was developed by Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit dedicated to increasing access to justice through the innovative use of technology.

Funding for the new technology has been made available through an emergency grant from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation ( www.teajf.org ), created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1984, is the leading state-based funding source for the provision of civil legal aid in Texas. The organization is committed to the vision that all Texans will have equal access to justice, regardless of their income. The Foundation administers a variety of funding sources, which are earmarked to assist nonprofit organizations in providing legal aid to approximately 100,000 Texans each year.