Albany Law, UAlbany Professors Publish New Book on Crisis Lawyering

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When it comes to responding to a modern day crisis – whether it be a global pandemic, extreme weather event or an attempt to overthrow our democracy – lawyers are playing an increasingly critical role.

Eric Stern, a professor at the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) at the University at Albany and Ray Brescia, a professor of law at Albany Law School, formed a cross-disciplinary partnership to better understand this emerging and complex field.

Their new book, “Crisis Lawyering: Effective Legal Advocacy in Emergency Situations,” published through NYU Press, offers key insights, strategies and tactics to lawyers who deal with a range of crisis situations on a regular basis.

“We are facing multiple major crises – social, political (domestic as well as international), environmental, public health – and new facets of them are emerging on nearly a daily basis,” Stern said. “These crises inevitably have a legal dimension, whether that is recognized at the time or discovered later. Our book meets an urgent need to help prepare lawyers to effectively find and communicate legally acceptable solutions to critical problems.”

“As the world seems more problems of growing complexity, from the pandemic to threats to democracy and the rule of law, lawyers seem to be at their center. Sometimes they help solve these crises and other times make them worse,” Brescia said.  He added: “This new book attempts to provide guidance to lawyers and those who work with them to understand the legal issues and competencies involved in addressing crises. Lawyers or those considering becoming lawyers can learn a lot from the powerful first-person accounts of crisis lawyering contained in this work.”

Gathering Crisis Experts

Beginning in 2018, Brescia and Stern worked with students to recruit a diverse group of legal scholars and experienced practitioners representing different government organizations, first responder agencies and academic institutions.

The group explored crisis cases focused on a number of timely issues such as domestic violence; immigrants in detention and banned from travel; policing in Ferguson, Missouri; the kidnapping of journalists; natural disasters and climate change. Their discussions and the first-hand accounts of veteran lawyers are the focus of the new book.

Brescia and Stern presented their project work at workshops, seminars, and courses at Albany Law, UAlbany (in conjunction with the 2019 Homeland Defense and Security Summit), Harvard Law School and the Swedish Defense University before publishing. They believe their analysis will not only serve as guidance to lawyers, but also help others who deal with crises respond to them more effectively, efficiently, legitimately, collaboratively and creatively. 

 “This book reflects an excellent cross-disciplinary partnership between UAlbany and Albany Law,” Stern said. “I have very much enjoyed the opportunity to work with Prof. Ray Brescia and a number of his outstanding Law School colleagues. We are looking forward to further collaboration in bringing insights from the book to students at both institutions as well as to professionals in the legal and homeland security/emergency management communities.”

After years of collaboration, Albany Law School and the University at Albany announced a formal affiliation in Sept. 2015. The partnership strengthens both institutions by creating innovative academic opportunities for students and opportunities for new research and grant prospects for faculty. It is designed to create economic and social benefits for the Capital Region and beyond.