Posts Tagged: Veterans

Getting Prepared: Lawyers Trained to Aid Military Personnel in Bankruptcy Cases

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training if a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the second training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans.

As most of our readers know, the BBA recently announced its Lawyer Referral Service will house the Military Legal Help Line, which connects veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources appropriate to their needs by offering reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance.

As part of the process to build up referral resources for the Help Line, the BBA recently launched a 4 part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. Last month you heard from us about Part One of the Series, the training on Family Law and Domestic Relations. Part Two, tackling Bankruptcy & Consumer Finance issues, also offered guidance on representing a unique population, and shed light on some of the psychological aspects that lawyers need to think about when dealing with service members.

In the words of the program chair, Donald Lassman: “the training session provided those in attendance with excellent resource materials and expert guidance on legal issues that are unique to military service men and women in bankruptcy cases and consumer finance cases, including debt collection law suits, residential evictions, foreclosures and auto loan repossessions. Service members face unique challenges when placed on active duty that can cause financial stress and make it very difficult, if not impossible, to timely respond to creditor inquiries.”

The experienced panel included Donald R. Lassman (Law Office of Donald R. Lassman), Gail McAuliffe (Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services), Mark Rossi (Esher Rossi LLC), and Thomas Beauvais.

Stay tuned for more information about our Military Initiative. If you are interested in learning more about taking referrals through the Military Legal Help Line housed at the Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service, please contact Solana Goss, at sgoss@bostonbar.org.

Join us for the next training in the series – Representing Military Personnel & Veterans: Estate Planning, Employment Law & Landlord Tenant Law on November 7th.

BBA Kicks Off CLE Series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans

Attorneys attended the first CLE in a the Representing Military Personnel and Veterans Series on Thursday to learn about family law issues affecting our servicemembers.

Attorneys attended the first CLE in a the Representing Military Personnel and Veterans Series on Thursday to learn about family law issues affecting our servicemembers.

Last Thursday evening, attorneys visited the BBA’s 16 Beacon Street headquarters to hear from an all-star panel on Representing Military Personnel & Veterans in Family Law and Domestic Relations.  Topics included unique family law issues that military members and veterans face, such as the Service members Civil Relief Act, jurisdictional issues, and division of military retirement pay. Panelists included: Judge George F. Phelan (Norfolk Probate & Family Court), Anna Schleelein (Shelter Legal Service), and Major James Downey (Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and U.S. Army JAG Corps).

As all of our readers know, the BBA has expanded its commitment to aiding military members, veterans, & their families this year, most recently with the adoption of the Military Legal Help Line by the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, and the aforementioned  4-part CLE series, which will encourage participants to take reduced fee and pro bono cases on behalf of veterans and military personnel.

Don’t worry if you couldn’t make the training on Thursday.  There are still three more sessions in the series, so you will have plenty of time to get the experience you need to help those who have served, or are currently serving, our country.  Next up is the Bankruptcy & Consumer Finance training on October 17th. Check out our brochure for more details.

 For more information on how to get involved with this initiative please contact Solana Goss, LRS Intake Coordinator, at sgoss@bostonbar.org.

Attorneys Spend a Saturday Supporting Veterans

Volunteer attorneys provided legal assistance to veterans at the Boston Veteran's Expo on Saturday.

Volunteer attorneys provided legal assistance to veterans at the Boston Veteran’s Expo on Saturday.

This Saturday, Shelter Legal Services and BBA volunteers offered veterans legal assistance at the Boston Veterans’ Expo. The event brought together health care providers, social service agencies, legal professionals, and potential employers to allow veterans to access their services at one time. As you may remember, volunteers participated in a similar event in August.

Beyond the Billable asked Anna Scheelein, Co-Executive Director of Shelter Legal Services and Co-Chair of the DLS Active Duty, Family Members & Veterans Committee, about the event:

“Shelter Legal Services is proud to collaborate with the VA and the Boston Bar Association to provide essential legal services to veterans in need. This was our second Veterans Expo and it was a great opportunity to make sure that veterans in Massachusetts know that if they are facing a legal issue, from problems with benefits, to consumer debt, to family law, there are lawyers who can help.”

Please stay tuned for more updates on the BBA’s veterans initiatives.

Training Lawyers to Serve Veterans and Military Personnel

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  The Coast Guard Honor Guard stands in formation before the beginning of the Coast Guard's Veteran's Day wreathlaying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetary.  USCG photo by PA1 Adam Eggers

With the recent move of the Military Legal Help Line to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), the BBA will be offering a four-part CLE series to prepare attorneys to address the unique legal needs of veterans and military personnel. The trainings will cover the key areas of need—family law and domestic relations, bankruptcy and consumer finance, estate planning, employment law, landlord/tenant law, and veterans benefits.

Registration for any or all of these seminars is free for volunteers who serve on one of the military panels for the BBA Lawyer Referral Service.

Beyond the Billable reached out to Dan Nagin, the Director of Community Lawyering Clinics at the WilmerHale Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School, to learn more about what to expect at the trainings.

Here’s what he had to say:

“The BBA’s trainings will provide a comprehensive introduction to some of the most common legal issues service members and veterans encounter.  The trainings are designed not only to cover the substantive topics most relevant to the military community, but also to give attorneys a practical tool kit for lawyering on behalf of service members and veterans in these key areas of law.  The presenters are experts in their field who will focus on advocacy tips, common pitfalls, and practice resources.  Attendees will leave armed with the basic knowledge and skills to represent service members and veterans effectively and to respond to their unique legal needs.  Overall, our goal is simple, but important:  to connect more trained lawyers to the service members and veterans who need access to justice.”

Click on the links below for more information and to RSVP:

September 26th: Family Law and Domestic Relations

October 17th:  Bankruptcy and Consumer Finance

November 7th: Estate Planning, Employment Law, and Landlord/Tenant Law

November 21st: Veterans Benefits

Stay tuned for a closer look at each of the trainings in the upcoming months.

Military Legal Help Line Moves to BBA Lawyer Referral Service

Veterans Initiative PhotoAs of September 1st, the Boston Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) is the new home of the Military Legal Help Line. This line will connect veterans, military personnel, and their families with lawyers and other legal resources. The service will refer callers to qualified attorneys offering reduced fee and pro bono legal assistance or the appropriate government or non-profit agency.

Beyond the Billable checked in with Solana Goss, the LRS intake coordinator, to hear what she has to say about line:

“As the intake coordinator of the BBA Lawyer Referral Service, I am excited and proud to help this deserving population connect with the legal resources they need. The BBA LRS is happy to support the needs of the community and those who served our country, by expanding the availability of legal assistance to active duty military, veterans and their families.”

If you are seeking legal assistance, please call the Military Legal Help Line at 617-742-0625 or 1-800-552-7046. You can also fill out an online request at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

Stay tuned for more information on upcoming trainings to prepare additional attorneys to take these types of cases.

Shelter Legal Services and BBA Volunteers Stand Up for Veterans at Massachusetts “Stand Down” Event

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Volunteer attorneys provided legal assistance to homeless and at-risk veterans at the Massachusetts Stand Down Event last Friday and Saturday.

Last Friday, 27 volunteer attorneys and four law students provided legal assistance to 122 homeless and at-risk veterans at the Massachusetts Stand Down at the Dorchester IBEW. Shelter Legal Services and members of the Boston Bar Association’s Military & Veterans Committee recruited volunteers to offer assistance in areas including state and federal benefits, family law, consumer debt and bankruptcy, housing, taxes, and criminal records.

“It is critical that we have attorneys from a variety of practice areas to assist these veterans who are some of the most vulnerable members of the community. By providing legal counseling, advice, and referrals, we are able to help veterans remove legal barriers to stable housing and self-sufficiency,” explained Anna Schleelein, Co-Executive Director of Shelter Legal Services and the coordinator of the event.

Stay tuned for more information on additional opportunities to assist veterans coming up in the fall. For more information about Shelter Legal Services, visit www.shelterlegalservices.org.

Lynn Girton- A Champion of Justice for Those Who Might Otherwise Be Forgotten

Before a crowd of more than 1,200 people at the Boston Bar Association’s Annual Luncheon, Lynn Girton, Chief Counsel of the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association, will be awarded the John G. Brooks Legal Services Award. Lynn has been devoted her career to helping those unable to afford private counsel in civil cases.

Beyond her direct service work, Lynn has been a fixture at the BBA. Lynn was co-chair of the Delivery of Legal Services Section (DLS), is an active member of the Public Service Oversight Committee, and has been a speaker at countless training sessions. But those contributions pale in comparison to the work Lynn has done as co-chair of the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee.

Lynn’s commitment to Military Members and Veterans is unmatched. She was initially appointed to the BBA Committee on Legal Services for Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families in 2009. This committee worked to determine how the BBA could help soldiers who are being overwhelmed with legal issues in light of their ongoing military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee was the result of this work.

Lynn has chaired the DLS Active Duty Military, Family Members, and Veterans Committee since its inception in 2010. She has been the driving force behind aligning resources in the community to provide these soldiers and their families with the best legal resources available. But Lynn is more than just the co-chair of this committee. She is the person we call when we have a veteran in need of an attorney and don’t know where to turn. She is the resource we use when we can’t find the answer to a veteran’s questions. She is the glue and the inspiration that has us all coming back month after month to ensure that we are providing the services that these men and women deserve.

Lynn Girton leaves her mark on everything that she does. The soldiers and veterans in Greater Boston are better off today not only because of the work Lynn does, but because of the work she inspires others to do.

A Yellow Ribbon Reflection

A few weeks ago I volunteered at a Post Deployment Yellow Ribbon Event organized by the Massachusetts National Guard. These are events organized by the military to support servicemen and servicewomen preparing for or returning from deployment. The BBA Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee attends Yellow Ribbon events to provide brief legal advice and legal resources. As the Public Service Manager at the Boston Bar Association, I had heard a lot about this project, but had yet to experience it.

It was a rainy day in May and I was running a few minutes late. As I pulled up to the Burlington Marriott I was amazed by the sheer number of military personnel in full fatigue. As I searched for the other volunteers, I zigzagged my way through a crowd consisting mostly of men who towered over me. I have no previous experience with the military, I have no friends or family who have ever served, and to say I was intimidated is an understatement.

While one volunteer manned our table, I was sent with a Retired Colonel and the other volunteer to a small board room to talk one on one with returning soldiers about their legal issues. I fielded the family law questions since that is the area of law I used to practice.

For over two hours I spoke to men who needed help and advice on their family law issues. One soldier I spoke with had his 6 year old son with him. He wanted to discuss filing for divorce; his wife had left him and the children while he was deployed. The soldier reassured his son and encouraged him to sit at the table and draw while he talked with me. As soon as the father walked away, the son ran after him and climbed into his lap.  It was obvious how much this little boy was hurting. His father left on deployment and is back but then his mother left and he had to move out of his home. I was able to provide the father with some basic information and hopefully provide him with some guidance.

In those few moments with this father and son, the sacrifices these men and women are making and the toll it is taking on their families became so clear. I heard story after story that day that broke my heart.

Volunteering at the Yellow Ribbon Event was fully outside of my comfort zone. It was a new population I had never worked with coming back from an experience I had no connection to. Although I wasn’t able to solve these men’s problems, the help I was able to provide was more than they had before walking through that door. This was an experience I will never forget, and I will definitely volunteer for another Yellow Ribbon Event.

If you are interested in learning more about Yellow Ribbon Events or any of our other programs, please contact me at sshah@bostonbar.org.

Sonia Shah

Public Service Manager, Boston Bar Association

Sonia Shah,
BBA Public Service Manager

Memorial Day 2012: Looking Back at a Year of Legal Assistance

On Memorial Day, people throughout the Commonwealth and the country paused to remember and honor the men and women of the United States Armed Forces.  Here at Beyond the Billable, we felt compelled to look back at the initiatives created to assist the service men and women of Massachusetts by the lawyer-volunteers in our community.    

Seeking pro bono legal services for the families of troops from Massachusetts being deployed in increasing numbers for lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army National Guard  approached the Boston Bar Association (BBA) in 2009. Under the leadership of then BBA President, Jack Regan,  the BBA developed an ad hoc committee to analyze the need for these services and to determine how the BBA might help.  The committee was chaired by Bill Sinnott, Corporation Counsel for the City of Boston and a retired Marine colonel, and included people with extensive military, pro bono, and/or legal services experience. After many months of reaching out to community organizations and conducting research, the committee recommended the creation of the Veterans’ Initiative and the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee.

Since then, the BBA has supported the following programs – all of which seek to address the unique legal needs of military personnel, veterans and their families. 

The Yellow Ribbon Project

Lawyer volunteers from a variety of practice areas serve as educators at Yellow Ribbon events — pre and post deployment informational sessions open to members of all five branches of the military. At the Yellow Ribbon events, BBA volunteers provide legal advice to military personnel, veterans and their families throughout the state in areas of law that include: bankruptcy, consumer debt & credit, family, financial education, labor and employment and trusts and estates.  Lawyer volunteers have also developed teaching materials and power points presented and distributed at these events.

Financial Education Veterans Initiative

Veterans and families of veterans are experiencing financial hardship brought about by deployment and the reduction in income that deployment may result.  In addition, many veterans are experiencing financial hardship for reasons relating to the current downturn in the economy.  The Yellow Ribbon Project has expanded to include a financial education outreach program.  Through the Bankruptcy Section of the BBA, lawyer volunteers provide speakers to veterans’ organizations in Massachusetts on the topic of personal finance, including managing credit and mortgage modification programs.   These programs are designed to increase the financial knowledge of servicemen and women and their families.   Members of the Section are also working with the Bankruptcy Court to reach a broader audience.

Military Legal Helpline

In December 2010, the Delivery of Legal Services Active Duty Military, Family Members & Veterans Committee created the Military Legal Helpline to connect military personnel, veterans and their families to pro bono and low fee attorneys.  This program represents a partnership of the BBA, Legal Advocacy & Resource Center (LARC), Shelter Legal Services and Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association (VLP).  The Helpline is housed and operated by LARC.  Callers are referred to VLP, Shelter Legal Services and the BBA Lawyer Referral Service based on income guidelines.  

To support the Helpline, the John A. Perkins Fund of the Boston Bar Foundation provided funding for the creation of an informational brochure that is widely distributed by our partner organizations.

BBA Lawyer Referral Service Military Panels

The BBA Lawyer Referral Service is committed to serving military members, veterans, and their families. Since February 2010, BBA lawyers have assisted more than 4,500 troops and their families from MA National Guard, Marine Corps, Army, Navy and Air Reserve. The Boston Bar Lawyer Referral Service has attorneys who certify that they meet certain experience requirements and have completed specialized training to help military members, veterans, and their families with legal issues in a variety of practice areas, including Bankruptcy Law, Employment Law, Family Law, and Trusts & Estates.

To reach the BBA Lawyer Referral Service please call (617)742 0625 or (800)552-7046 Monday through Thursday, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm; Friday from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. You can also email us at LRS@bostonbar.org or visit us on the web at www.bostonbarlawyer.org.

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, please contact Stephanie Lee, Public Service Programs Coordinator at slee@bostonbar.org.