Program for Veterans Legal Services
(Pro Bono Project)
Many before me have commented on how the events of Sept 11 and the proceeding event now occurring in the Middle East have brought the country closer
together and brought out the best in many of our citizenry.
The unthinkable horrors of Sept. 11 have changed our nation and its people. This nightmarish tragedy that resulted in the loss of so many has also cost us –
perhaps permanently – the sense of security, optimism, and unlimited possibility that characterizes the American spirit. Times of great pain and uncertainty
take the measure of a people – and of a profession. The events of Sept. 11 have galvanized Americans. In a society that some commentators have described
as increasingly isolated, materialistic, and narcissistic, Sept. 11 triggered an extraordinary outpouring of generosity and community spirit. So many people
sought to give blood in the days after the tragedy that hospitals had to turn away many donors. In the weeks that followed, volunteerism and charitable giving
have continued at a pace not seen since World War II.
The desire to make a difference knew no boundaries. Lawyers and Legal Service providers around the nation, not simply those in the areas directly affected
by the terrorist attacks sought and found ways to help.
The VSLR, Program for Veterans Legal Services-Pro Bono Project provides free placement services to eligible Veterans of the US Armed Forces
in seeking professional legal council. VSLR, then further provides strategic advice, training, and tailored technical assistance to Attorney/Law Firms that
address the legal problems of the disadvantaged Veteran and his family - and the non-profit and community groups that serve these populations - through
major impact litigation, administrative and legislative advocacy, major research and advocacy projects, signature projects, community economic development,
and similar strategies. (Within the guidelines set before 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code).
Program for Veterans Legal Services helps disadvantaged Veterans effectively leverage the resources of individual Attorneys and Law Firms to enhance
their participation in institutional Pro Bono work.
Veterans Strategic Legal Resources is mandated to explore and identify new approaches to - and resources for - the provision of legal services to
disadvantaged Veterans and their family’s and other individuals or groups that assist Veterans to secure legal assistance to address critical problems. In
doing so, the VSLR program identifies and develops innovative programs and undertakes rigorous evaluations to ensure that the proposals and methods
identified are workable in the real world of law practice and legal services delivery.
The program also strives to look objectively and critically at the strengths and limitations of current models, and, working with key decision makers and
opinion leaders, to assess, improve, and re-think those systems to avoid stagnancy and to ensure responsiveness to new issues, environments, and
In its work the VSLR program is guided by a commitment to equal justice, innovation and creativity, excellence, collaboration, and results.
In making the case for why The Veterans Administration – and Legal Institutions – should undertake, support and endorse The VSLR Program for
Veterans Legal Services.
Countless national, state, and local studies have detailed the appalling gap that exists between the disadvantaged Veteran who needs, but are unable to
afford or obtain, the specialized knowledge and skills of legal professionals to protect and vindicate basic human needs and fundamental rights versus the
shockingly limited resources available to meet those needs of our Honored Veterans.
Others focus on the ethical underpinnings of this program – every lawyer’s fundamental responsibility to ensure equal access to justice. Linked to this ethical
imperative is the pivotal role-played by VSLR in maintaining the professionalism of the legal profession. As lawyers seek to preserve the highest ideals of
their profession, they must concern themselves not only with the bottom line, but also with the greater public good.
Given the profound changes in and enormous pressures of attorney/law firm practice today, however, it is essential to have the Veterans Administration –
Volunteer Services support - Veterans Strategic Legal Resources Program will result in positive benefits for the disadvantaged Veteran, the
Attorney/Law firm as well as for the communities served. These benefits will also support a hardheaded business rationale for pro bono work and for
institutional law firm support for that work. While some of the benefits are relatively easy to quantify, others are not.
While some pluses resulting from a VSLR culture that is supported by the Department for Veterans Affairs and Local Attorney/Firms will be
immediately apparent, other beneficial results will become known only with the passage of time. This brief description is designed to outline the means by
which participation in the VSLR program can and will, in the long term, strengthen the ability to attract and serve our Honored Veterans more proficiently.
Program for Veterans Legal Services
According to Model Rule 6.1 of Professional Conduct of the American Bar Association, “a lawyer should aspire to render at least fifty (50) hours of pro
bono public legal services per year.” Rule 6.1 further urges that lawyers provide a substantial majority of those hours without fee or expectation of fee to
persons of limited means or charitable, religious, civic, community, governmental and educational organizations in matters designed primarily to address the
needs of persons of limited means. Additionally, lawyers are encouraged to contribute financially to organizations that provide legal services to the poor.
Thousands of lawyers answer the call each year. According to The American Lawyer magazine, lawyers at the nation’s 100 biggest and most profitable law
firms logged over 1.82 million hours of pro bono time in 2002, or the equivalent of over 1002 full-time associates. Lawyers assist clients in cases civil and
criminal, with issues considered liberal and conservative, and in matters involving civil and human rights, immigration, housing, capital punishment defense,
taxes, business development and more.
How it works…
VSLR - links attorneys with Veterans for pro bono work
VSLR is dedicated to making it easier for disadvantaged Veterans to locate and establish legal services from attorneys and firm lawyers seeking to find pro
bono cases that suit their preferences.
VSLR will operate as an intermediary between the Veteran and the legal services provider.
VSLR will meet with the Veteran, gain an understanding of the nature of the issue and estimates the amount of time that the matter will probably require.
This information is made available to firms and lawyers who are seeking pro bono work and solicited to attorney member firms within the VSLR database.
VSLR will established, facilitate and assist the delivery of pro bono services by linking eligible Veterans with representation and by assisting the licensed
attorney with the case.
VSLR screens Veterans/Clients and then recruits lawyers to handle the cases.
VSLR will use mailings to lawyers, presentations at law firms and diligent communication with pro bono coordinators to make the links.
VSLR will soon institute an online sign-up option where lawyers may view brief case descriptions on the VSLR website and select a case they would like to
In addition to these services, VSLR humbly request that the Veterans Administration make its resources and facilities available on site-for lawyers working
with Veterans on a pro bono case.
VSLR also hopes to organize legal clinics focused on specific Veteran issues such as VA Benefits, Tax Law and Probate and will recruit lawyers to staff the
clinics. Motivated by the desire to have lawyers serve our Veterans, VSLR will make a concerted effort to find lawyers from the area where the issues are
As stated in the VSLR - Pro Bono Challenge Statement of Principles-principle 2
To underscore our organizational commitment to pro bono activities, we agree to use our best efforts to ensure that, by no later than the close of calendar
year 2011, our VSLR program will either:
§ Establish an office for the sole purpose of providing legal and civic resources to eligible Veterans.
§ Establish an administrative infrastructure necessary to evaluate and support a resource center.
§ Design and promote a web site to solicit the organizational objective of the VSLR program.
§ Retain the endorsement of prominent members of the legal, political, academic, civic, & social communities.
§ Have 20 participating attorney/law firm members.
Transactional pro bono
Pro bono is no longer just for litigates. Opportunities to provide pro bono assistance in a whole host of transactional matters have increased in recent years.
VSLR services will not be a formalized program, but develop as we experiment with transactional pro bono models.
The following services will be provided to participating Attorney – Law Firms by VSLR staff:
VSLR - Legal Analytical - Paralegal Service providing attorneys with pro bono professional assistance on a case by case basis to commissioned legal
counsel within the VSLR database.
· Attend initial conference with attorney and client · Review and organize client files · Draft correspondence and pleadings · Draft demand
to present for settlement · Interview client to gather facts and background information · Draft discovery requests and responses · Investigative
services · Site inspections and photography · Prepare deposition summaries · Prepare medical summaries and chronologies · Proofreading
and editing · Conduct legal research and Internet research · Locate and interview witnesses · Conduct records search · Document retrieval
and filing in court · Prepare trial notebooks · Assist in preparing witnesses for trial · Arrange in preparing witnesses for trial · Arrange
for blow-ups and visual aids · Attend and assist at trial · Service of subpoenas and summonses · Draft appellate briefs · Set up and
organize filing systems, diary/calendar systems and time sheets · Streamline office expenditures, procedures and allocation of workloads · Interview
perspective interns· Screen intern applicants and perform background checks ·
Set up and install computer hardware and software · Firm web design, hosting and maintenance.
The primary mission of Veterans Strategic Legal Resources, Inc shall be to operate as a Non Profit - 501(c)(3) organization for the
social and economic welfare of U.S. Armed Forces Veterans; provide substantial hands-on assistance directly to homeless
veterans, disadvantaged veterans, their families and non profit groups that support these populations, long-term transitional
assistance, linkage with case management and rehabilitation, available income support and permanent housing, assist in legal
service acquisition, continued education, employment assistance and conduct programs for, charitable, literary and educational
purposes, care and assistance to hospitalized veterans, sponsor or participate in activates of a patriotic nature, and provide social
and recreational activities for veterans and there families.