Many of us have seen or experienced first-hand the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence. The North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center is one of the organizations who has sprung into action to lead relief efforts. The NC Pro Bono Resource Center (PBRC) has also compiled a list of volunteer opportunities for legal professionals who would like to join them in their efforts. The organization recently announced the addition of Katherine Asaro to their team who will lead the pro bono efforts in response to Hurricane Florence. Katherine’s position is funded by a grant from NC IOLTA and donations from Ellis & Winters, Kilpatrick Townsend, & Stockton, Nelson Mullins, and Troutman Sanders. Director Sylvia Novinsky had this to say about the decision to add Katherine to the team, “We feel so fortunate to receive funding to coordinate an on the ground pro bono legal response to unmet legal needs due to the recent hurricanes. Katherine and the PBRC are encouraged by the amazing response from the legal community to assist hurricane victims.”
I had the opportunity to learn more about Katherine Asaro and the great work she’s doing with the NC Pro Bono Resource Center.
LM: Katherine, what type of work did you do prior to joining the NC Pro Bono Resource Center?
KA: Before coming to the PBRC, I was a clerk to two federal judges in the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro. I clerked for Chief Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. and Senior Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr. Before clerking, I was a Staff Attorney at the North Carolina School Boards Association in Raleigh. In a previous life, I taught high school and worked for a family business. I graduated from law school in 2012 and started a second career path when my youngest started kindergarten. She is now a freshman in high school!
LM: What is it about your current role that attracted you to the position?
KA: After clerking, I knew I wanted to keep working in government or a non-profit legal environment. I am moved by the idea that we are directly helping people to access the justice system on a daily basis in both those environments. This position was created just as I started looking for my next job (you can only term clerk for 4 years and my time had come to an end) and it was like a dream come true. I am working with incredible people to enable attorneys to do more pro bono work in a meaningful and purposely targeted way.
LM: How is the organization collecting data to ensure you’re able to provide assistance to the areas in need?
KA: We keep very detailed records of our client interactions and attorney volunteers. Right now, our focus is working at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) in Fayetteville and New Bern, areas hit the hardest by Hurricane Florence. As we create new opportunities for attorneys to volunteer in the disaster recovery space, we will continue our data collection.
LM: Can you tell us a little bit about the volunteer opportunities available for attorneys and paralegals?
KA: We have opportunities for both attorneys and paralegals. We are finishing up our work at the DRCs and beginning to plan FEMA Appeal Clinics in the Eastern part of the state. Please check our website at https://ncprobono.org/disaster/ to see the most up to date listing of volunteer opportunities. Here are dates for our upcoming FEMA Appeal Clinics
January 12th in New Bern
February 9th in Wilmington
February 23rd in Morehead City
Here are the sign ups…
Attorney Sign Up:
Paralegal and Law Student Sign Up:
And for people to sign up for an appointment:
LM: What is the biggest need as it relates to legal professionals’ participation in disaster relief?
KA: To put it simply, we need attorneys to volunteer to take cases for people impacted by natural disasters. The issues run the gamut from landlord/tenant to appealing FEMA decisions to help with insurance issues to everything in between. Additionally, paralegals can help collect documentation to support FEMA appeals.
LM: Are attorneys required to have previous experience with assisting with disaster relief in order to participate?
KA: No! There is always training available before a volunteer opportunity.
LM: Where can those interested in getting involved find more information?
KA: Those interested in getting involved can learn more by visiting www.NCprobono.org
Katherine Asaro is a Staff Attorney at the North Carolina Pro Bono Resource Center where she currently oversees Disaster Relief and Preparedness Initiatives. She is a graduate of UNC Law, Duke University, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In her prior legal life, Katherine was a clerk in the Middle District of North Carolina in Greensboro and a Staff Attorney at the North Carolina School Boards Association in Raleigh.