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August 2002

One Year Later, 9/11 Sites Largely Abandoned

By Robert J. Ambrogi

In the days and weeks following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, a stunned legal community, no less than the community at large, responded with offers of help, support and information. In the earliest hours, with phone lines failed and transit shut down, the Web was the surest way to get information to victims and their families. Later, as systems returned to normal, the Web remained the medium of choice for many from the legal community as they put out offers of assistance and advice.

A year ago, this column surveyed the legal sites that sprung up in the wake of Sept. 11. A year later, we ask, "Where are they now?" We find that many of the sites are now dormant or forgotten. A handful, however, have continued to provide vital coverage of the many legal issues that have since emerged.

Among the first to respond on the Web last year was the New York State Bar Association, which posted a WTC Disaster Assistance page within days. The page offered information for both lawyers and the general public on how to obtain assistance, how to process insurance claims, how to handle pending cases, and how to obtain temporary staffing. The page is still there as part of the NYSBA's site, even though the URL has changed and a first-time visitor to the site would be hard pressed to find it. Today, it is little more than a listing of the agencies and entities offering help to World Trade Center victims.

The NYSBA also helped launch Legal TechAid, a Web site devoted to serving as a clearinghouse of information about replacing computer systems, recovering data and reestablishing law practices interrupted by the events of Sept. 11. The page was launched less than a week after the attack, and remains online today. However, it appears largely abandoned now, its last update having been on Jan. 29, 2002.

News and Information

Fortunately, not all sites set up in the wake of Sept. 11 have grown dormant. In particular, some that were set up to provide news and information continue to serve that purpose well.

FindLaw has provided news and resources from the outset, and continues to provide updates at least daily. Its page, Special Coverage: War on Terrorism, includes regularly updated news summaries, as well as links to related government Web sites, documents, laws, cases, photographs and videos, and support organizations. The only part of the site that appears dormant is its volunteer clearinghouse, where individuals can post offers of free law books, office supplies, legal services or other services.

Another site that continues to maintain useful Sept. 11 coverage is LLRX.com. Its extensive collection of Sept. 11 links pull together legal and general news sources with resources on terrorism and homeland security, disaster recovery and relief, survivor and victim services, international law and policy, and even transportation.

A year ago, LexisOne responded quickly to Sept. 11 by creating a section devoted to information for the legal community, which it called America Unites. Today, that page remains, but more as a memorial than as a resource. It bears a note dated Sept. 12, 2001, and shows no evidence of further updates. However, over at its news section, LexisOne continues to provide coverage of legal news coming out of the war on terrorism along with its coverage of other legal news.

Before the calendar had turned from Sept. 11, the National Law Journal had begun posting news of the attack's impact on the legal community on its Web site, including a grim roster of victims and missing. It also created a Disaster Relief page, on which anyone could post offers of free services, space or support. A year later, these sections are no more, although the paper continues to cover legal news growing out of the attack.

Another American Lawyer Media site, New York Lawyer, a Web publication of the New York Law Journal, also began posting news almost immediately of the impact on New York's legal community. A year later, it continues to maintain a WTC page, http://www.nylawyer.com/extra/attack. It has not seen an update since March, but the site's daily news section covers WTC-related news as part of its general legal news reporting.

Substantive Law

While some sites focused on reporting news for and about the legal community, others turned their attention to substantive law, drawing together key resources on topics important to lawyers in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

Of these, one that remains vital a year later is the Terrorism Law and Policy section of Jurist: The Legal Education Network. The section, which has continued to grow throughout the year, draws together links to Web sources for counter-terrorism laws and policies worldwide, as well as to terrorism-related trial documents, news and general information. Adding perspective to it all is commentary contributed by law professors from throughout the U.S.

In the early days after the attack, one topic of foremost importance was insurance. As victims turned to the task of rebuilding, lawyers and clients confronted an array of coverage questions. A pro bono coalition of insurance lawyers responded by creating WTCinsurance.org, intended to offer answers to many common questions. While a useful service at the time, it appears now to be inactive, apparently not having changed since October 2001.

Other Bar Sites

In the days after Sept. 11, the American Bar Association, devoted a portion of its site's front page to "Our National Tragedy." In addition to a message from the ABA president, it included a memorial to ABA members who died or were missing, information on legal help and volunteer opportunities for lawyers and victims, and links to resources both within and without the ABA.

A year later, Sept. 11 has been as integrated into the ABA site as it has into our national psyche. No longer is there a single page about it. Rather, the outfall of Sept. 11 is manifested throughout the site, as the ABA's many sections and entities have tackled the legal and social issues generated in its wake.

Likewise for the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which initially devoted parts of its Web site to its various initiatives in the wake of Sept. 11. These included its calls for a moratorium on lawsuits arising out of these events, its pro bono program, providing free representation for victims and their families, and its 911 Heroes Fund, for trial lawyers to assist the families of firefighters, police and emergency medical workers who gave their lives in rescue efforts. Today, Sept. 11 and the war on terrorism are topics addressed throughout ATLA's site.

One site, though, is a direct outgrowth of ATLA's work to provide free legal services for the victims. Trial Lawyers Care, is the non- profit corporation set up by trial lawyers to provide free legal services to Sept. 11 victims who elect to make claims under the Victims' Compensation Fund. TLC's site provides information about the program, both for victims seeking a lawyer and for lawyers wishing to volunteer. Even this site, however, shows little current activity, with its last update having been in May 2002.

Among the bars most directly hit by the events of Sept. 11 were the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, and the New York County Lawyers' Association. Both continue to offer a variety of Sept. 11-related information for lawyers and the general public on their sites.

Robert J. Ambrogi, rambrogi@legaline.com, is author of "The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web," available at LawCatalog.com.

© 2005 Robert J. Ambrogi.