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12.1.3.2 Client Intake—What to Look for and What to Expect

The first step in creating the attorney-client relationship with the disaster survivor is intake. Simple intake questions covering a range of relevant legal issues can be listed in a script to ensure that all necessary questions are asked at the outset. It is important that the intake script requests all available contact information including phone numbers and email addresses. After a disaster, clients often have unreliable cell phone service or access to electricity. Make sure at intake that the applicant knows how to reach your office in case you are unable to reach them.

After a disaster, advocates may conduct intake screenings in-person at disaster clinics, resource centers, or pop-up recovery sites. Advocates may also rely on pro bono and law school volunteers to assist with intake. A reliable intake script ensures that all relevant information is captured, regardless who conducts the intake screening and where it occurs.

An important question to ask at intake is whether the person is in stable housing or requires a referral for housing or health assistance. After a hurricane, applicants may live in housing that is structurally unsound or growing mold. Although there may be nowhere to relocate (shelters and hotels may be destroyed or at capacity), the applicant may be able to get contractor help for securing the structure and mold remediation assistance, as well as referrals to locations for housing options of which they were not aware.