Information Update-March 6, 2017: Lawyers interested in learning more about this issue can sign up at www.immigrationjustice.us. Hundreds of members of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) have called and emailed association leaders to express their concern and interest in providing … Continue reading →
It’s been just over two months since devastating floods in West Virginia killed 23 people and left thousands more homeless. The hardest-hit communities are struggling to rebuild. They could use our help.
A series of catastrophic storms pounded the state on June 23, dumping up to a foot of rain in some areas over a 12-hour period. State streams and rivers rose rapidly, burying communities under several feet of water, debris, and mud. FEMA declared eight counties federal disaster areas. The National Weather Service called it a “one-in-1,000-year event.”
West Virginia AAJ members pitched in to help their communities, spending the days after the floods digging out homes and roads, providing food and shelter for displaced residents, hosting fundraisers for local relief efforts, and even providing legal assistance. But, much more needs to be done, and we can’t forget those who are still fighting to rebuild.
This unprecedented flooding affected hundreds of homes that are not within flood plains, so most homeowners were without flood insurance and have lost everything. Many of those affected were already struggling to provide for their families. They had little to no savings or existing lines of credit that can help them rebuild. Entire neighborhoods were washed away and have been replaced by tent cities—and winter is just months away.
We encourage you to find ways to help West Virginians rebuild, and have included some organizations for you to consider supporting. Be sure to designate each donation for the “June 2016 West Virginia Floods.”
- Mountain Mission’s The HOPE Project (1620 7th Ave., Charleston, WV) is dedicated to helping people in Kanawha County rebuild homes damaged by the floods. You can learn more at mountainmission.com/flood-relief/.
- Save the Children worked in three counties directly affected by the flooding and continues to provide health and early education programs for children across the state. You can learn more at Savethechildren.org.
- The Greater Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation and the Country Roads Recover Project is working with local citizens, business leaders, relief organizations, and government agencies to rebuild communities destroyed by the floods. Please visit countryroadsrf.org to learn more.
- Local community foundations are also accepting donations. The Nicholas County Community Foundation, the Hinton Area Foundation, and the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation can all use our support.
- You can also support the Red Cross by texting “WV FLOODS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation or donate to the Salvation Army.
- And, please help our furry friends by supporting the Greenbrier Humane Society. Learn more at greenbrierhumane.org.
Thank you for all your support!
The severe and deadly flooding in Louisiana is the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since Superstorm Sandy. For the survivors, thousands of them have been left with nothing, and need our help. Students are in great need of supplies for the new school year.
Here’s how you can help:
Trial Lawyers Care has created school supply lists for three different age groups—elementary, middle school, and high school—based on requests from affected parish schools. You can either download the supply list and shop locally and mail; or follow the links below to Amazon school lists pre-populated with the supplies:
View and print the supply document and shop at your retailer of choice locally or online. (Shipping address is below).
Pre-populated Amazon shopping lists:
AAJ/TLC Elementary School Supply List – approximately $105 w/completed backpack: http://amzn.com/sl/5XDK6SM6KZNM
AAJ/TLC Middle School Supply List – approximately $150 w/completed backpack: http://amzn.com/sl/2FS53WY0FE13D
AAJ/TLC High School Supply List – approximately $185 w/completed backpack: http://amzn.com/sl/2L5TU0IJEWSQ3
If you choose Amazon for your purchase, there are buttons to move all items on the list to your cart at one time, or to select individual items and move them individually to your cart. These options enable you to make changes before purchasing anything.
Please note that we’ve included “clear backpacks” in these lists because many parish schools now require their use. We did not include the scientific calculators at the high school level since this would double the cost of the high school supplies. But, if you are so inclined, we welcome this item as well.
TLC School Supplies
Herman Herman & Katz, LLC
820 O’Keefe Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70113
AAJ’s Trial Lawyers Care Committee member Jennifer Greene, at the Herman firm, is organizing a team of volunteers who will unpack and distribute the shipments to schools in the affected areas in and around Baton Rouge. If you have any questions regarding these supplies, please email Jessie Hoerman at Jess@THLawyer.com or Jennifer Greene at JGreene@hhklawfirm.com.
Giving Locally through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation
Another way to make a difference is by giving to the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, http://www.braf.org/louisiana-flood-relief. The Foundation is community-based and has set up a special fund specifically for this flood relief effort, to which Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has been directing contributions.
While in Los Angeles for their annual convention, member groups from the American Association for Justice will spend some time volunteering at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. Teams of volunteers from AAJ’s New Lawyers Division, Minority Caucus, and Trial Lawyers Care Committee will work at the food bank on Thursday, July 21; Saturday, July 23; and Monday, July 25.
“Food insecurity is a major public health issue that has reached crisis proportions in LA County,” says Jessica Hoerman, chair of AAJ’s Trial Lawyers Care Committee. “It is alarming and unacceptable that over 30% of Los Angeles County families will have difficulty putting food on their table every day. We look forward to taking time out from our convention to assist the Los Angeles Food Bank in distributing food to those in need.”
The Trial Lawyers Care Committee is comprised of lawyers who are working to build a team of attorneys across the country who are committed to the proposition of doing well by doing good, and who are fostering positive relationships with the public by serving and giving to others in need.
The lawyers associated with the American Association for Justice have a shared belief in making a difference within the communities where they live and work. Giving back locally during the annual convention where members gather for educational and networking opportunities reflects their beliefs. “We always look forward to pooling our resources to make a difference and get to know the community better,” Hoerman said.
During past conventions, AAJ lawyers have participated in many different community activities including donating books to elementary schools; providing books, blankets and stuffed animals to homeless children; donating school supplies to a community literacy program; cooking and serving meals in a summer community program; sorting food and bagging groceries at food banks; organizing canned food drives; building houses and cleaning parks; providing supplies at veterans shelters, and giving presentations at schools on the topic of ending distracted driving.
To help dedicated students afford law school, Miami lawyer Ira Leesfield has provided dozens of scholarships since 1994. Founding partner of Leesfield Scolaro in Miami, Leesfield benefited from scholarships in high school and college, and he felt compelled to give back.
“Without people being generous and concerned about me, I probably wouldn’t have gotten an education,” he said.
He started by repaying the group that gave him his college scholarship, and then he partnered with AAJ to create and endow the Leesfield/American Association for Justice Law Student Scholarship Program in 1994. This scholarship goes to law student members who exemplify a high commitment to trial advocacy and preserving the civil justice system. The scholarship, awarded at AAJ’s Annual Convention, gives recipients exceptional learning opportunities.
In 1997, Leesfield established the Florida Association of Women Lawyers (FAWL) Miami-Dade chapter scholarship fund, which helps exemplary women law students defray tuition and expenses. FAWL is a professional organization that promotes the advancement of women in the legal profession, and its members include lawyers, judges, and professionals in the business community.
The scholarship recipients often stay in touch with Leesfield—he said he still hears from the first AAJ scholarship recipient. “It’s incredibly rewarding, and it certainly makes you feel relevant,” he said. He noted that since both scholarships were established, several other firms have initiated similar scholarship support.
The Leesfield Family Foundation, established in 1990, supports other scholarship funds as well, including the Harold Foster Memorial Scholarship, Shepard Broad Law Center, Nova Southeastern University; the Thomas H. Henderson Jr. Endowed Scholarship, University of Alabama; the Daniel S. Pearson Scholarship and the Eileen G. Breier Scholarship Fund, University of Miami School of Law; and the Florence Griffith Joyner “Flo Jo” Scholarship Fund.
The foundation also contributes to the community in other ways, particularly causes that help the elderly, children, and women. “My mom was a single mom,” Leesfield said. She raised him and his two siblings, and he worked after-school and weekend jobs to help with expenses. Leesfield also said he believes it’s important to support smaller charitable groups, which often get passed over by large foundations.
“It would be inconceivable for me to go through my whole life and prosper as a lawyer and not give others the same opportunity,” Leesfield said. “Trial lawyers have a unique opportunity to work with people who are vulnerable, so it follows that they would have empathy for those in need. If you have more than what you need for a comfortable lifestyle, why wouldn’t you share it?”
As part of the Dori Slosberg Foundation’s driver education and safe teen driving program, Brian LaBovick of the LaBovick Law Group in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., speaks to local high school students every month about safe driving. He brings a legal perspective to the team that visits the schools and explains how one poor decision—involving DUI, texting, a passenger or other distractions—can affect a student’s life forever.
He explains that it is his job to ensure punishment for the driver who injures someone through distracted driving. He walks them through how their poor decisions can affect their families, and not just the families of the people they hurt. This could mean putting their own families in dire financial straits—including their college funds disappearing, their belongings and even their pets getting seized, and their wages getting garnished. “It takes no time to make a mistake in the car,” LaBovick said. “It’s important for them to understand that something that starts as a minor situation can quickly turn into a disaster. No one wants that for them.”
The team of presenters also brings together police and medical providers, and sometimes includes the victim of an accident, someone who has gotten out of jail after a DUI, a driving instructor, and a professional race car driver—who illustrates how dangerous it is to drive in everyday traffic. Driving on a typical street is more dangerous than driving a race car because of variables such as traffic flow and pedestrians to negotiate, LaBovick said. “We think it’s so easy that we don’t pay attention.”
The presentations have made progress. The number of accidents and deaths during prom has decreased for the schools the foundation has visited. The foundation has also made progress in pushing for safer driving laws, LaBovick said. The foundation’s mission is to educate the public and promote safe driving habits through the use of seat belts and the elimination of distracted driving (see dorisaveslives.org for more information).
LaBovick hopes that if the foundation can get its message across to students, it can help allow future generations to be safer on the roadways. He says that talking directly to the students has been rewarding. “When you donate money, you know it’s going to good use, but you don’t see it in the faces of the kids you help.”
[Editor’s note: LaBovick was a finalist for the American Association for Justice’s 2016 Trial Lawyers Care Award.]
People who work at Bartimus, Frickleton, Robertson & Goza in Leawood, Kansas, take part in many community service activities, but the one that brings them all together each week to roll up their sleeves is sandwich-making. Every Tuesday, they put together more than 350 ham and cheese sandwiches for the City Union Mission, a homeless shelter in Kansas City. “It’s all hands on deck,” said partner Jim Bartimus, explaining that everyone at the firm participates, and some clients have joined in as well. “People love it,” he said. “It’s unusual.”
Bartimus started the tradition more than 22 years ago, and the firm hasn’t missed a week since. The firm buys the ingredients wholesale from a local grocery store. It started as 50 sandwiches, and then 100, and it grew from there; over the years, the firm has donated more than $100,000 to the cause.
People at the firm also volunteer together for other causes. Once a month, several of them volunteer at the local food pantry, and the firm allows paid time off for employees to participate. Through the nonprofit Lawyers Encouraging Academic Performance and Operation Breakthrough, which supports children who live in poverty, some members of the firm read with kids weekly.
“For many years, the partners have encouraged all attorneys and staff members to participate in charity endeavors for whatever organizations they choose, as well as firm-supported work,” said Kim Millican, the firm’s business manager. “We must set the bar and be the example to others out there. We can all do more, all the time. We have to think about the impact we can have on others’ lives through our giving.”
Partner Chip Robertson started a charitable foundation, Christmas Present, Inc., that funds more than 500 gifts for families in need during the holiday season. He saw a need for children whose parents and family members couldn’t provide gifts for them, and he wanted to step in. The office now buys and wraps gifts to be distributed in the area.
Jim and Dana Bartimus started the Dana James Charitable Foundation to help children in need. They regularly contribute to causes that provide relief for children who need it. The firm has also contributed significantly to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Children’s Mercy Hospital, the local children’s hospital in Kansas City, to fund research.
Bartimus said that once, when he was getting ready to depose a local doctor he was suing, the doctor mentioned that he’d heard Bartimus had donated to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The doctor told him, “I can’t thank you enough,” explaining that his daughter has leukemia.
“There’s so much need out there,” Bartimus said. “We’re supposed to be lawyers and leaders in our community. We can’t bury our heads in the sand and hope someone else does it.”
Doug Landau is an avid cyclist. As an All American triathlete and duathlete, he represented the United States at the World Championships in Adelaide, Australia, in October 2015. From his office at Abrams Landau in Herndon, Virginia, he can see bikers on the W&OD Trail biking without helmets every day.
He knows from personal and professional experience that head injuries can be devastating, so he decided to do something about it. Several years ago, he started giving away bike helmets to children at local schools. In 2014, he gave away “a helmet a day”—at least 365 helmets.
As part of the giveaway program, dubbed “Putting Lids on Kids,” Landau teaches children about the dangers of not wearing a helmet and about traumatic brain injuries. He shows them smashed helmets from actual crash victims and uses models of the skull and brain to show how brain injuries happen. He also teaches them how to wear a helmet properly: Law enforcement officers, elected officials, university bike club members, and school staff help custom-fit each child’s helmet. Landau also offers to replace the helmet when the child outgrows it or the helmet gets damaged. “Parents, teachers, and students have received the educational program and helmet giveaway very favorably,” he said. He estimates that he has given away more than 1,000 helmets over the years.
Landau suffered a double concussion himself in 2013. The recovery process was long, he said, and “it was like walking around in Jello.” He said he would often forget words and “would be passed out on the office couch by 2 p.m. every day.” He had studied neurology and had a good understanding of brain injuries, but he didn’t fully appreciate the recovery process until he lived it. Brain injuries require energy to heal, he explained, and most people don’t give the brain the complete rest it requires to fully heal.
He says this experience allows him to be empathetic with the injured athletes he represents and to talk to them knowledgeably about concussions. “My father was a New York City lawyer and inducted into the AAJ [American Association for Justice] Hall of Fame. He used to say that if you have any outside expertise, it can come in handy for helping people,” Landau said. “My knowledge of sports medicine and athletic participation helps me help people injured while participating in recreational activities.”
Landau’s efforts to support and educate bikers and other athletes also extends outside of local schools and injured clients. He has sponsored the Maryland & Virginia Triathlon Super Series, which includes more than 30 multisport races in the mid-Atlantic region that support local charities. At these events, Landau helps educate people about bicycle safety and sports law.
“It’s important for someone who takes something from a sport to give something back,” he said, and that is why he serves as a volunteer flagger and performs helmet safety inspections at local triathlons and has taught sports law at the Mid-Atlantic Multi-Sport Expo in Washington, D.C.
In recognition of the American Association for Justice TLC National Day of Service, Motley Rice attorney Breanne Cope joined a Dig-In, planting two gardens outside of Austin, including one at a local restaurant where the vegetables are used to feed homeless Austinites.
A Dig-in is an initiative of Green Corn Project (GCP), a grass-roots, Austin-based non-profit organization that teaches basic organic gardening skills while helping Austin families and community organizations grow organic food gardens. Its primary goal is to encourage and support backyard food gardening in communities that have limited access to affordable, healthy food, using organic and bio-intensive methods to create healthy soil and high-yielding vegetable gardens.
GCP provides garden recipients with plants, seeds, tools, compost and volunteer labor to double dig and plant a 4 by 12 foot garden. Afterward, GCP continues to provide volunteer support and garden supplies for two years, or longer if needed. Breanne Cope is on the GCP Board of Directors.
One of the first projects for Kentucky Justice Association Trial Lawyers Care involved the lawyers, their families, and local physicians working together to help Supplies Over Seas (SOS). Founded in 1993 by members of the Greater Louisville Medical Society, SOS collects and distributes surplus medical supplies and equipment to medically impoverished communities around the world.
The group spent the morning of May 9, sorting supplies. Thanks to those who participated, including pictured: front row, left to right, Chandrika Srinivasan, Alexandra Logsdon, Mike Schafer, and Jared Smith; back row from left to right, Kevin Weis, Ken Doan, David Bryant, Ron Johnson, and Ty Smith. Kentucky Trial Lawyers Care t-shirts provided by Howland & Smith.