Shortly after the earthquake in Haiti, former AAJ president Mary Alexander called on her fellow trial lawyers to join forces and help the Haitian people the way these lawyers came together to aid the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
Many members didn’t need prodding.
Fort Smith, Arkansas, attorney Joey McCutchen and local resident Noah Steffy rented a U-Haul truck to use as a collection station, asking donors to deliver nonperishable food, personal hygiene products, and equipment like flashlights and generators. The firm partnered with the relief organization Friend Ship—with which Steffy once worked as a volunteer in Haiti—that transported the goods to Port-au-Prince.
At press time, McCutchen said their efforts had filled two more 53-foot trailers and were halfway through filling a third. “I call it the Golden Rule in action,” he said. “I’m amazed at the way this has taken off, and how much our community cared.”
In Coral Gables, Florida, Spencer Aronfeld founded the organization Lawyers to the Rescue. “I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I had to do something,” Aronfeld said. “I couldn’t physically go to Haiti and dig people out of the rubble, but maybe I could coordinate a way to get money to worthy organizations.”
One of the group’s first efforts: a happy hour fundraiser at a local restaurant. Aronfeld also used Facebook to set up a silent auction and invited fellow trial lawyers to participate.
“The response was overwhelming,” he said. “Trial lawyers and related businesses really stepped up. For instance, [trial consultant] David Ball donated a free focus group; a videographer offered free deposition videotaping; [trial consultant] Amy Singer donated a jury selection consultation.”
Aronfeld said the group raised almost $10,000 and has grown “too big for me.” At press time, he was finalizing plans to make Lawyers to the Rescue a 501(c) nonprofit and setting up a board of directors.
The Kentucky Justice Association (KJA) formed Trial Lawyers Care—Haiti after learning that texted donations to the Red Cross could take up to 90 days to reach the country. KJA began collecting checks that could be delivered directly to the local Red Cross office, cutting through the red tape and going directly to relief efforts.
Sonia Chaisson, a trial lawyer in Los Angeles, has organized the Trial Lawyers Haiti Support Run, a mud run to be held April 11 that includes tunnel crawls, mud pits, and other obstacles that participants run, walk, and slosh their way through. Participants get sponsors to help them raise contributions, which are earmarked for Doctors Without Borders.
“This is a short mud run that any lawyer can participate in, and there’s a separate mud run for children,” Chaisson said. She added, “Lawyers are naturally competitive, and my hope is that they foster this energy into helping our brothers and sisters in Haiti.”
Let TRIAL know about Haiti relief efforts or other charitable projects you’re involved in by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.