"Contractors aren't going to wait to get paid. That's going to be the real hardship for people," Seman said.
Rosemarie Barnett, an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, is another attorney who can sympathize with struggling homeowners. Her Baldwin home on Long Island's South Shore suffered more than $100,000 in structural damage and $55,000 in personal property damage.
She spent more than three weeks in motels after the storm until her heat and power came back. Barnett has paid about $30,000 out-of-pocket for storm cleanup and deposits to contractors for repair work, plus several thousand more in associated costs: a higher heating bill since much of her home's insulation has been torn out, and hundreds of dollars in storage fees for her furniture.
"It's scary shelling out that much" before seeing her insurer's final settlement offer, she said.
Barnett has volunteered with NYLAG's mobile legal help center doing intake and answering general legal questions when it was stationed in Lindenhurst. Her firm has allowed her to work from home most days as she meets with insurance adjustors and contractors.
Like other lawyers who have helped Sandy victims, Barnett said her sense of professional responsibility compelled her to volunteer.
"I'm an attorney and I myself have good insurance," Barnett said. "I can't imagine what it's like for people who don't have the same resources."
For Discepolo, dealing with the storm's aftermath has forced her to rethink her decision to leave the corporate world last year in search of legal work that would allow her to give back to her community. Because of the storm's toll on her finances, the practice she planned to build around special-needs children has been tabled.
She is considering an in-house counsel position with an insurance company and had to turn down another public service job she was recently offered.
"If my financial situation was different I would definitely have done the work," Discepolo said. "Since the storm happened and I started community outreach, it felt good to help someone every day. It's been rewarding. But right now it's not enough to satisfy my monthly bills."
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