November 18, 2019 | The Pepperdine Caruso Law Disaster Relief Clinic is featured in the ABA Before the Bar blog article, “How Your Peers Are Helping Disaster Survivors.” The article examines ways in which law students can get involved in the area of disaster law and play meaningful roles in post-disaster community recovery.
Excerpt from “How Your Peers Are Helping Disaster Survivors”
Today, only a handful of law schools across the country offer a course in disaster law. Pepperdine University School of Law offers such a course and also operates a disaster clinic. Travis Beck is a third-year student at Pepperdine and is currently enrolled in the disaster clinic. As a Seattle native, Beck never dealt with disasters before coming to California for law school. In November 2018, during Beck’s second year of law school, the Woolsey Fire forced him to evacuate from his home for more than a week.
“Although I was only evacuated, some of my friends and their families lost their homes,” said Beck. “After that experience, I knew I had to do something to help.”
The following summer, Beck began volunteering in Pepperdine’s newly formed Disaster Relief Clinic, which was created to help California fire survivors. Beck continued working in the clinic through the Fall 2019 semester and is concurrently enrolled in the school’s disaster law course.
Beck is joined by seven other Pepperdine law students who spend their time in the clinic on a wide variety of legal issues that arise due to fi re damage. Beck stated that students are paired together to work a handful of cases, most of which are worked in-house. If the issues are outside the scope of the clinic, the client gets referred to a pro bono attorney.
One of the most common issues was assisting homeowners with the permitting process. Since many homes predated many of the city of Malibu’s building restrictions, homeowners face significant challenges in rebuilding, even if it’s only to rebuild to what they had prior to the fire.
Beck explained that the assistance of an advocate is central to the recovery process. “What sticks out is how unprepared some people can be for a disaster and what to do in the aftermath,” he explained. “A lot of the clients we work with aren’t lawyers, and they don’t understand the process—they just want to get back to normal. They’re overwhelmed and just want someone to help them.”
The complete article may be found here