The Community Coalesces
By Robert Ambrogi
IN September 11's tragic wake, a stunned nation turned to the dual tasks of helping the victims while carrying on with their lives. The legal community whose members were among the office workers, rescuers and airline passengers who were victims of the attack was no exception. In ways great and small, it quickly coalesced to offer support and information to those who would carry on.
September 11, 2001 near the World Trade Center
When phone lines failed and transit systems shut down, the Web proved itself the surest way to get information to those who needed it. Within days, law-related Web sites turned themselves into bulletin boards for offers of assistance and repositories of information about critical resources.
The New York State Bar Association was among the quickest to respond, posting a WTC Disaster Assistance page. It offers information for both lawyers and the general public on how to obtain assistance, how to process insurance claims, how to handle pending cases, and how to obtain temporary staffing.
The NYSBA also launched Legal TechAid, to serve as a clearinghouse of information about replacing computer systems, recovering data and reestablishing law practices. The page was online less than a week after the attack, thanks in large part to the volunteer work of consultants Dale Tincher, president of ConsultWebs.com, and Ross Kodner, president of MicroLaw.
Two other New York bars devoted Web space to the tragedy: The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers' Association.
News and Information
Here at American Lawyer Media Inc., we did our part as well. The National Law Journal (of which I am editorial director) immediately began posting news of the attack's impact on the legal community on its Web site, including a grim roster of victims and missing. We created a Disaster Relief page, on which anyone could post offers of free services, products, office space or other support for law firms affected by the tragedy.
Another ALM site, New York Lawyer, a Web publication of The New York Law Journal, also posted news almost immediately of the impact on New York's legal community. It continues to provide daily news reports on how courts, lawyers and legal workers are recovering and coping.
Within hours of the WTC attack, ALM's New York-based editors and reporters fanned out to cover its impact on the legal community. The editor of this magazine, Monica Bay was among the first journalists to get to Ground Zero. Her dramatic photographs can be seen on Law Technology News' Web site (lawtechnews.com). LTN's October issue, which included more than a dozen articles addressing the disaster and recovery aftermath, went online early, within hours of going to the printer mid-September.
Other legal news sites also devoted substantial space to coverage of the attack's impact on legal professionals as well as to the legal aspects of the war on terrorism. Special coverage on FindLaw, includes updated news summaries, and links to related government Web sites, documents, laws, cases, photographs and videos, and support organizations. It, too, includes a volunteer clearinghouse, for those offering free law books, office supplies, legal services or other services.
LexisOne quickly created a section devoted to information for the legal community, which it calls America Unites, . In addition to links, it includes a library of the forms needed to obtain a death certificate in New York and two discussion forums where lawyers can share their thoughts or post requests for assistance and offers of help.
LLRX.com also put together an extensive collection of links that pull together legal and general news sources, along with resources on terrorism and homeland security, disaster recovery and relief, survivor and victim services, international law and policy, and even transportation.
Other sites turned their attention to substantive law. One topic of foremost importance was insurance. As victims of the WTC attack turn to the task of rebuilding, they confront an array of questions. What if the policy was destroyed? How is a claim filed? Which policies cover what damages or losses? WTCinsurance.org, created as a pro bono service by a coalition of lawyers and staff who concentrate in insurance coverage law, answers many common questions.
Meanwhile, Jurist: The Legal Education Network, a wide-ranging legal portal, launched "Terrorism Law and Policy". It draws together links to Web sources for counter-terrorism laws and policies worldwide, as well as to terrorism-related trial documents, news and general information. Adding perspective is commentary contributed by U.S. law professors.
Another site that responded with substantive assistance is Probono.net, which created a section devoted to helping the legal community consolidate its relief efforts. It includes listings of legal services needed, other ways lawyers can offer their support, substantive materials to help lawyers who donate their services, and contact information for appropriate city, state and federal agencies that provide benefits or services.
Other Bar Sites
On a national level, the American Bar Association, devoted space on its front page to "Our National Tragedy." In addition to a message from ABA President Robert Hirshon, it included a memorial to ABA members who died or were missing, information on legal help and volunteer opportunities for lawyers and victims, and links to resources both within and without the ABA. Uniquely, the ABA drew together messages to victims sent by lawyers and bar associations throughout the world.
The Association of Trial Lawyers of America, also devoted parts of its Web site to its various initiatives in the wake of Sept. 11. These include its calls for a moratorium on lawsuits arising out of these events, its pro bono program, providing free representation for victims and their families, and its 911 Heroes Fund, for trial lawyers to assist the families of firefighters, police and emergency medical workers who gave their lives in rescue efforts.
LawNet Inc., the national organization of legal I.T. staff, was among those who quickly set up clearinghouse information at Peertopeer.com. Judith Flournoy of New York City's Kelley Drye & Warren (and a member of the LTN Editorial Advisory Board) is coordinating efforts for that group.
The Association of Legal Administrators lists disaster planning and recovery resources. It includes a library and links to outside resources. ALA's New York City chapter has its own page.
Robert J. Ambrogi is author of The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Web Sites, available through LawCatalog.com.