Five Penn State Law students headed for the coast over spring break—and they took their legal skills with them to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy. First-year students Nailah Williams, Keana Williams, and Stephen Worthington joined second-year students Doyinsola Aribo and Dunell Ridore for a week of volunteer work with Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ), where they did legal research, community outreach, and whatever else was needed.
The students worked under LSNJ staff attorney Maryann Flanigan, who says their assistance was most appreciated. “The Penn State Dickinson Law students assisted us with very important legal and non-legal research issues,” she said. “They were invaluable to our legal outreach efforts in dealing with some of the hardest-hit Hurricane Sandy disaster areas.”
Group leader Nailah Williams, who would like to be a public interest lawyer, said she most enjoyed the outreach on behalf of legal aid. “We traveled to Seaside Heights and Monmouth County and explained that free legal help was available and provided the numbers and resources to residents,” she said. Legal research tended to focus heavily on insurance law and property issues, she explained. “The number of people who need help with insurance claims is just huge. Right now many homeowners are getting checks from insurers to fix their homes but finding that their mortgage companies are not releasing the funds.”
A few of the students visited landlord-tenant court, where they observed hearings and mediation. It was especially on-point for the first-year law students, who are studying landlord-tenant issues in Property this week.
The trip was the brainchild of law students Rebecca Buckley-Stein, Rachel Keung, and Michelle Polato, who wanted to provide a pro bono opportunity for their peers. Together, they located a nonprofit in need of law student support and requested funding from a variety of sources. “I am surprised by how much good will and support there is at the University for a student group who really wants to help,” said Michelle Polato.