Law firm, ABA to match vets with pro bono lawyers

Lawyers and executives from the nation's largest corporations will gather today, Veterans Day, in the 18 U.S. offices of the global law firm Jones Day to learn how they can participate in VetLex, a network to link U.S. veterans, veteran-serving organizations, and qualified pro bono or "low bono" (low cost) lawyers - across town or across the country - who will stand ready, willing and able to provide the specific legal services veterans need. VetLex will be the first national and central resource allocated to legal service referrals for veterans.

Developed by Jones Day, VetLex will serve as a convenient and effective way for volunteer lawyers to donate their time to serve veterans. Organizers expect to recruit hundreds of pro bono lawyers over the coming months as a full program -- that will include training and certification -- rolls out to legal service organizations, corporate legal departments, law firms, bar associations, and law schools. Once recruitment and training are complete, VetLex is expected to begin serving veterans in spring of 2017 in pilot sites. The ABA brings deep expertise in the areas of pro bono and legal referral in the veterans space as well as a national membership that is excited to provide services to veterans. The ABA and Jones Day are developing the specifics of their respective roles in bringing VetLex into reality and anticipate that the ABA will steer the long-term future of the initiative.

"Our nation owes a huge debt of gratitude to our veterans, yet the brave men and women who fought to protect freedom and the rule of law around the world often lack access to their own legal system here at home," said Laura Ellsworth, Partner-in-Charge of Global Community Service Initiatives at Jones Day. "That needs to change and we are proud to be taking a leading role in the development and launch of VetLex. We are consulting with the ABA, which has developed expertise using pro bono lawyers to serve active duty military personnel and veterans through its Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP). This year, the ABA President, Linda Klein, has prioritized expanding legal services to veterans, making the timing of VetLex even more important."

Services to veterans will be provided over the full spectrum of legal issues. These extend far beyond benefits disputes to include issues like landlord-tenant relations, family law, employment matters, business start-up needs, and more. VetLex will help match veterans to appropriate pro bono attorneys, selected by their experience areas, location, and other criteria. VetLex will also provide a listing of social service providers to whom the veteran can be referred by the lawyers in the event these "wrap around" services would be of benefit. For veteran-serving organizations, VetLex will provide shared legal resources (a brief bank and chat rooms) that allow for shared resources, as well as administrative features that significantly decrease the cost and administrative burdens for service providers.

"Despite all the excellent work under way for veterans throughout the country, the need to augment this work with more pro bono effort is clear. VetLex is a tool that can effectively support the recruitment, training, placement and management of volunteer lawyers who want to make a difference for veterans," said Linda A. Klein, President of the American Bar Association. "Jones Day's efforts to step forward with both financial support from its Foundation, and pro bono support from lawyers, is a driving force needed to help so many."

Training and certification for new lawyer volunteers will be a major aspect of the program. Jones Day has developed a CLE credit training program that will be offered in each of its 18 offices across the United States. Training will also be available through the ABA, veteran-serving organizations, local bar associations, and law schools. Interested lawyers and providers can quickly sign-up for information updates at http://vetlex.org/. Everyone who signs up will be notified when the official VetLex portal is live so they can formally register.

"Corporate America has been a staunch supporter for veterans, continues to be a vastly viable resource, and we are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in supporting veterans," said Miguel Eaton, a partner in Jones Day's Washington office, who heads its Veteran Initiative and is himself a veteran, having served in the U.S. Marine Corps. "While many in-house company lawyers are often not members of the bar in the state in which they reside and, therefore cannot participate in traditional pro bono representations, with a brief training session (which Jones Day is committed to provide), they can represent veterans in some of their most significant matters, and likely can do so almost exclusively from their desks, rather than having to attend live hearings. In recruiting and training in-house lawyers to qualify to work with veterans, we will tap a huge pent-up demand for volunteer work that can make a difference."

Published: Fri, Nov 11, 2016

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