Q&A with Tristan Overcashier, a Bay Area Legal Services pro bono attorney working with the Disaster Relief Team.
Well, thank you for being here today. Why don't we start off by having you introduce yourself to us?
My name is Tristan Overcashier, and I've been a flood claim adjuster for about nine years, and I also practice law in the state of Florida, specifically in Saint Petersburg.
How did you first get involved with Bay Area Legal Services?
I was actually giving a lecture on flood insurance and how to handle claims at Stetson University College of Law. And a law student came up to me after and she mentioned Bay Area Legal Services and the work they do in the community. And I was really excited to hear what she had to say, so I reached out to one of the attorneys there, and they got me in touch with the Disaster Team.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you've done with the Disaster Relief Team of Bay Area Legal Services?
I've actually handled four pro bono cases with the Disaster Team in Bay Area Legal Services. And I've also helped put together a disaster preparedness manual for the community, and we have also worked together in putting together a practice manual for the attorneys who are working at Bay Area Legal Services.
Can tell us a little bit about any of the specific cases you worked on?
One case that comes to mind was a nice woman named Mary, and she lived out in a mobile home in Tampa. And she had had some damages related to Hurricane Irma. And she was really having a difficult time getting any type of settlement from her insurance company that matched the value of her damages. And so we were able to go in and help her contact her insurance company and work with her mortgage company and were able to get her an additional settlement.
How did Bay Area Legal work with you through this case?
Bay Area Legal Services was great. I really felt supported. I had contact with the lead attorney and he was able to, you know, guide me through the process and how to handle the issues, and was there, kind of, as a support. And it was also excellent, because there was a case manager. And that person really took care a lot of the non-legal issues, and that really allowed me to focus on the legal issues.
Why do you think the work of Bay Area Legal is so important?
I think any organization that is helping people who don't have the income to access something that we take for granted is a very important organization, and that makes them very important. I really believe that everyone should have access to the legal system regardless of their income. And Bay Area Legal Services is an organization that helps people who are less fortunate or don't have the money to access legal system to get the legal aid that they need.
What would you say to an attorney who hasn't yet had the time or opportunity to take on a pro bono case?
I would tell the attorney pro bono work is very fulfilling. I think we are blessed with the opportunities and we're blessed with the luxury of knowing the law, and knowing a lot of things that other people just don't understand. And so, you know, there's people out there who are less fortunate than we are, and it's really worth the time, worth your effort to help these people out.
Why is it that you do pro bono work?
I really believe in this idea that you should not be limited by the amount of money you make in accessing the legal system. And I can see, especially in the insurance industry, especially, you know, it's a very complex issue that a lot of people get taken advantage of and so to be able to offer my help and, you know, be able to offer kind of legal guidance to them. It's very fulfilling.
How would you say pro bono work has helped you as an attorney?
It's been very helpful. It's allowed me to make some connections I don't think I otherwise would have made. It's introduced me to some wonderful students, some wonderful attorneys. It's, kind of, showing me some great avenues to find help for people, a lot of legal aid organizations. And also it's made me a better attorney.
Do you expect to provide pro bono work moving forward?
Absolutely, and especially with Bay Area Legal Services, I feel very supported and I really enjoy working with them.