Blog Archives

One Year Later: The BBA Military & Veterans Legal Help Line

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Solana Goss – Lawyer Referral Service Intake Coordinator

For the past year, I have had the opportunity to work firsthand expanding the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service’s reach to service members, veterans and their families through the Military & Veterans Legal Help Line. September marks the one year anniversary that the Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) has housed the help line, which was developed in 2011 to connect this underserved population with the legal resources they need.  As the Intake Coordinator of the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service, I connect hundreds of callers per week with attorneys, legal services, and community organizations. Whenever I pick up the phone and the caller identifies as a disabled veteran struggling to pay their mortgage, or an active duty military member facing family law disputes, I am reminded of the strength, courage, and dedication that these individuals put forth to serve our country.  That this need exists so prevalently in our society helps motivate me to do what I can to improve access to legal services for the individuals and their families who served our nation.  I leave each call remembering that there is more than we can do for veterans. Instead of just thanking veterans for their service, I am fortunate enough to show my thanks by offering and connecting them with assistance. The legal community has the opportunity to show their thanks and appreciation for the sacrifices of service members in another way – by agreeing to take cases on their behalf.

Goss_Solana2The BBA and the Lawyer Referral Service has made considerable progress through the Legal Help Line this year. Since September 2013, we have connected 340 active-duty military, veterans, and their families to lawyers and legal services, a 161% increase in the amount of individuals that we were able to serve than the year prior. The LRS maintains a panel of attorneys who are trained to understand the nuances of representing this population, and our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee is ready to address new challenges in the year ahead.  Despite this great success, we still need more attorneys to take cases. If you are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military & Veterans Legal Help Line, contact me at sgoss@bostonbar.org, or the BBA’s Public Service Manager Sonia Shah at sshah@bostonbar.org.

The BBA has an ongoing commitment to support service members and their families…so what’s next? On September 23rd the BBA will host the first part of a two-part series to raise awareness about the critical issue of military sexual assault.  U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas will be lending her expertise on the issue and her highlighting her work fighting against sexual assault in Congress.  For more information and to register, click here.

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BBA Boosts Legal Assistance for Our Troops and Veterans

Veterans Initiative Photo

It’s been a little over six months since the BBA’s Lawyer Referral Service adopted the Military Legal Help Line . If you remember, this past fall we announced the expansion of our Veterans’ Initiative, by transferring the Help Line, launching our CLE series on Representing Military Members, Veterans & Their Families, and leveraging the efforts by our Active Duty, Family Members and Veterans Committee.

Here’s a glimpse of our impact so far:

  • Since September 1st, we have received calls from more than 250 military personnel, veterans and family members.
  • We successfully connected 65% more callers to lawyers and legal services than last year. Since developing a panel of qualified attorneys trained to assist with the unique legal issues facing this population, we have been able to help more clients.
  • All of the attorneys on these Military & Veterans panels accept reduced-fee cases and are generally willing to provide brief advice at no cost to the veteran or military member.
  • For more complex cases that members of our Military & Veterans panels are unable to help, we have been successful in finding other BBA members with specific expertise to provide assistance.

These successes come at the same time the state is expanding its outreach to veterans by launching the second Veterans Treatment Court, this one in Suffolk County. The court began holding sessions at the end of January and is staffed with specially trained judges, clinicians, probation officers and attorneys. The Veterans Treatment Court will hear certain criminal cases where a link has been established between trauma caused by military service and the defendant’s crime.

Can you help assist active duty military members with discharge cases? If you can or are an attorney who wants to help support the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line, contact Solana Goss at sgoss@bostonbar.org.

BBA Continues Veterans Work by Educating Attorneys on Representing Clients with Post-Traumatic Stress 

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The panelists discussed their personal experiences as a veteran or dealing with PTS.

On Wednesday afternoon, attorneys headed to the BBA’s Claflin Center for a program called “Representing Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress: What Everyday Attorneys Need to Know.” Just as the title suggests, the program educated attorneys about the challenges and misconceptions that arise when serving clients with PTS.

The panel for this program included attorneys who regularly counsel veterans, health care professionals, as well as individuals that have served in significant combat operations. The speakers included Kevin Casey (VA New England Healthcare), Tim McLaughlin (Holland & Knight), Jack Regan (WilmerHale), Ann Stewart (the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program), Travis Weiner, and moderator Bill Sinnott (the Corporation Counsel, City of Boston). These panelists shared gripping personal stories and experiences and provided perspective into many of stressful factors veterans face post-deployment.

Beyond the Billable checked in with Tim after attending this program to see what he hopes attendees learned. Here’s what he had to say:

“First, I hope the panel members were able to provide some general insight into the realities of military service, which is very different from its portrayal in the media.  Second, I hope we were able to provide some specific insights into what I would characterize as the normal and lifelong effects of military service and combat, which can manifest itself in many forms, including post-traumatic stress.  However, and this is important both from a veteran’s point of view and for those attorneys who may represent veterans in the future; speaking from first-hand experience, post-traumatic stress is not a disorder.  It is simply what comes next.  It would be a disorder if I was unaffected.  And finally, I hope we were able to share some of the many, many resources that are available to our veterans in and around Boston.”

This program is a part of the Boston Bar Association’s ongoing efforts to provide crucial legal assistance to military personnel, veterans, and their families.  Along with this program, the BBA’s Military Legal Help Line through the Lawyer Referral Service, and participation in Yellow Ribbon events, are just some of the ways the BBA commits to providing veteran’s and their families the access to legal assistance that they need and deserve.

If you are an attorney and would like to find out about what you can do to help veterans and their families, check out our Veteran’s Initiative webpage here.

BBA Military & Veterans Initiative Update

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the third training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. This session covered topics in Trust & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law.

Last Thursday, the BBA hosted the third training of a 4-part CLE series on Representing Military Personnel and Veterans. This session covered topics in Trust & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law.

As you know, the BBA has been hard at work expanding our reach with our Military & Veterans Initiative, and we wanted to update you on our progress.

 Since the move of the Military Legal Helpline to the BBA Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) at the beginning of September, we have received more than 75 calls from military members, veterans, and their families. So far, we have nearly 30 attorneys accepting referrals through the military and veteran panels of the LRS.

Additionally, the BBA has hosted three CLE sessions on Representing Military Members and their Families. The most recent training last Thursday on Trusts & Estates, Employment, and Landlord/Tenant Law attracted lawyers from a variety of backgrounds.  Beyond the Billable reached out to panelist and former U.S. Army Officer Paul Lannon (Holland & Knight) to hear about the most recent training. Here’s what he had to say:

“Attorneys need specialized training because their clients – the soldiers– need specialized legal advice.  There are more and more laws, policies and practices that apply only to Uniformed Service members.  Special training is required to understand them and how they apply to soldiers leaving for or returning from duty.  Representing Uniformed Service members is worthwhile, highly rewarding, and much appreciated work for lawyers.”

So what’s up ahead?

Don’t miss the final installment of the four-part CLE series coming up on November 21st . This final training will be a primer on Veterans’ Benefits.  For more information or to register, please visit the event page. Keep an eye on the BBA calendar for additional training opportunities. We are always looking for ways to better serve those who serve our country.

 If you would like to know more about joining the Military and Veterans’ Panels for the BBA LRS, please contact Solana Goss at sgoss@bostonbar.org.

BBA Spotlights Four Pro Bono Superstars

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing Program.

During Pro Bono Month, the BBA trained over 200 attorneys to take pro bono cases, including training over 50 attorneys to volunteer for the Lawyer for the Day program and the Boston Housing program.

Though Pro Bono Month has officially ended, Beyond the Billable encourages its readers to take advantage of the BBA’s public service and pro bono initiatives year-round. If you needed any extra motivation, take a look at the four pro bono spotlights below, each of which highlights the commitment and participation of dedicated lawyers dedicated to pro bono work.

Thomas Beauvais: Lawyer for a Day Has A Lifetime Impact
Meg McKenzie Feist: Helping to Ease Burdens Through Bankruptcy
Donald Lassman: Financial Education for Service Members as a Means of Prevention
Katy Ward: Ensuring Access to Justice in Boston’s Housing Court

For a full recap of Pro Bono Month, click here. Please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org for more information on how to get involved throughout the year.

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.