While some Irene relief workers are picking up debris, students and faculty at Vermont Law School are helping out by doing some heavy legal lifting.
The South Royalton school is home to two legal clinics that are helping storm ravaged Vermonters fill out their federal disaster declarations and providing advice on insurance claims.
“Public service is at the core of what the legal profession should be about,” said professor James May, director of the South Royalton Legal Clinic. “This is part and parcel of what we do.”
May is heading up a clinic that opened this week to answer legal questions about insurance coverage and, in the coming weeks and months, he said volunteer lawyers and student lawyers from the clinic will be available to represent Vermonters appealing their Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement decisions. He said the clinic will be open from 1 to 4 p.m.
“Some members of the bar volunteering with us work on insurance cases all day, every day,” he said. “Their expertise will be invaluable.”
While May’s clinic was preparing to open earlier this week, assistant professor Kat Garvey said the clinic on campus has been open for a week to Vermonters who need help filling out their FEMA claims.
“I don’t want to say that filling out these forms is complicated but it’s paperwork and for people who lost their homes, filling out paperwork is the last thing they want to do,” she said.
Visitors to the clinic also have access to the Internet and phones — resources that some in the surrounding communities are still going without.
The clinics run by both May and Garvey are also serving to further the education of students at the school.
“This is one area where we can make an impact,” said third year student Scott Wold, who spent the weekend helping residents fill out FEMA forms. “One of the things you think about when you enter the legal profession is what kind of service can I provide to help people through daunting processes. Just knowing that there’s someone there that knows what they’re doing is reassuring, I think. People know that the process is going to go smoothly.”
Garvey’s clinic will remain open until Sept. 30, with hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The clinic is located on the top floor of the Vermont Law School library. For more information and referral to other services call 831-1028.
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