Last fall, Long Island attorney Tracey Discepolo opened a solo practice focused on the legal needs of special-needs children after a 12-year stint as multinational counsel for various insurance companies. Then Hurricane Sandy hit.
With floodwaters filling the basement and reaching about 18 inches of the first floor in her Massapequa home, Discepolo said she went into "crisis mode"documenting her damaged property in an Excel spreadsheet for future insurance adjustors.
On March 1, Discepolo, 40, and her familyhusband, two kids, a cat and a chocolate Labradorfinally will return to their home. Meanwhile, she will be on hand today at a clinic to help other victims of the Oct. 29 storm.
At left, Tracy Discepolo stands amid the reconstruction of her Massapequa home. Below, she counsels a Sandy victim at a clinic hosted by the Nassau County Bar Association.
Discepolo is one of several lawyers in storm-torn parts of Long Island who are applying their expertise to assist their neighbors pro bono, despite ongoing Sandy-related disruptions to their own lives.
"I try to let them know they're not alone. I'm in the same boat," Discepolo said.
She has volunteered at eight clinics sponsored by the Nassau County Bar Association and the New York Legal Assistance Group, assisting about eight clients per event with 30-minute free consultations. And when one of the contractors tearing out her ruined walls and floors mentioned a dispute with a business partner, she drafted an agreement for him.
"Some people just want someone to listen to their stories," Discepolo said. "Everybody's tired and frustrated, and many people are still waiting to hear from their insurers. It's a very slow process."
Meeting with insurance adjustors and contractors is "a full-time job," Discepolo said. So far she's gotten $15,000 from her flood insurer. Her family's cleanup and repair costs have totaled $80,000, mostly out-of-pocket. The job still isn't done either. When her family moves back, it will only have use of the upstairs bedrooms and bathroom. Still, she said, it's a step up from the 500-square-foot temporary apartment they've rented since the storm.