The Final Push

9_11 graphic-articleIn November 2002, Leo Boyle (AAJ President 2001-2002) assumed the presidency of TLC. Efforts increasingly concentrated on ensuring that enough volunteer attorneys were available to represent victims and file their claims in a timely manner.

As the filing deadline of December 21, 2003, approached, TLC intensified its outreach efforts to make sure that all potential claimants—especially non-English speakers—knew of the deadline. On the final day for filing, TLC remained open through the evening and met the deadline for all claims, including those brought by about 50 ironworkers from the Mohawk Nation near Montreal. They had helped build the World Trade Center and were injured while helping in the 9/11 rescue efforts, but they had learned of the fund only at the last minute. TLC organized Canadian lawyers to represent them and ensured that their claims were filed.

With the close of the filing period, Richard Bieder assumed TLC’s presidency. Efforts during the program’s final months helped volunteer attorneys present claims, secure awards, establish structured payouts, and conclude their representation.

Proving the Critics Wrong

More than 3,500 families requested TLC assistance. Of those, about half—1,739 claimants from 35 states and 11 countries—were eligible to file claims with the fund. They received more than $350 million in free legal services provided by over 1,100 TLC attorneys from every state, three Canadian provinces, Australia, England and Mexico.

These lawyers proved the critics wrong: the final total for aid to victims and survivor families was expected to exceed $2 billion. Awards to TLC clients have averaged more than $2.1 million per claim, compared with the average for non-TLC cases of about $1.8 million. TLC clients also gained from not having to pay fees or costs, which averaged about $200,000 per case. Overall, TLC clients fared better—by about $500,000—than fund claimants who chose for-fee lawyers.

The Victim Compensation Fund was a great success: In the end, the families of 98 percent of all those killed on 9/11, as well as hundreds of injury victims, filed claims with the fund.

The Success of TLC

Many deserve credit for the success of TLC. In addition to the program’s officers, directors, and staff, several others played critical roles: then-AAJ General Counsel Michael Starr went to New York to serve as TLC’s acting director for five months in 2003; Bill Mauk left his Idaho practice to work as a staff attorney for three months; Chris Koerner, former vice president in AAJ’s Political Outreach department, led fundraising efforts; Steve Peskin (TLC’s current vice president) and TLC board member Drew Britcher led volunteer-attorney recruitment; and Carlton Carl, former vice president in AAJ’s Media Relations department, managed TLC’s outreach to the press.

Representing the victims of 9/11 was a massive and extraordinary undertaking. Many volunteer attorneys have said their TLC work was the most rewarding experience of their career. The awards not only helped reconstruct lives but also restored hope and a future where none existed before.

As Feinberg wrote in a letter to then-TLC President Leo Boyle: “What TLC is doing is unprecedented in American history. You . . . should take great pride and personal satisfaction in helping to assure the success of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund.”

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