09:10 AM

Disaster Recovery Hotline volunteer, Zachary Berkstresser


Tell us a little about your background as a lawyer?

I graduated UMKC Law in 2016 and went to work in a large company's tax department

Zachary Berkstresser

Tell us a little about your background as a lawyer?

I graduated UMKC Law in 2016 and went to work in a large company's tax department. I had the opportunity to move to the insurance and risk management side of things and couldn't be happier.

When did you first become involved with the hotline?

I saw an advertisement for the disaster recovery hotline about a year ago and figured helping people with insurance issues was within my wheelhouse, so I might as well help out.

Why is pro bono service important to you?

I started doing volunteer work during law school with CASA and OGAL. I worked in KC Public Schools before law school and knew the need was strong. It was a win-win as I received great experience and clients received services they otherwise might not. Working in a corporate position, my field is rather narrow, pro bono work allows me to expand my practice area and improve my skills.

 Is there a case that stands out for you or a certain kind of help that is most often requested?

What is most often requested is help understanding an insurance policy and responding to an insurance company. These are not complex requests and you don't need to practice in the insurance arena to be competent to handle most of these cases.

How much time have you volunteered in the last year to pro bono work?

I aim to volunteer 52 hours a year, one hour a week. Some of this is formal through programs like CASA or the hotline, some is serving on boards, and the balance is helping people I meet through word of mouth who have a legal issue but can't afford to hire an attorney.

How does it feel to have helped so many people with their legal issues?

Not many of the cases I get have fairy tale endings, but it's rewarding to know you made a difference.

What advice would you give other lawyers about getting involved with the hotline?

The hotline is a really easy way to add pro bono to your practice. You can take a case if you have time or decline if you don't. Hotline clients have usually experienced significant loss, but they are incredibly grateful to have someone willing to listen and help.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Anyone can volunteer, but only we as attorneys can volunteer legal services. Missouri has a little over 24,000 attorneys on the rolls. If each volunteered one hour per month we could collectively do an incredible amount of good.