Thursday, September 18, 2008

National Veterans Legal Services Program seeking pro bono lawyers for Veterans Appeals

The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is seeking attorneys to represent one appellant before the Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims. Private attorneys with no veterans law experience have demonstrated their ability to capably represent appellants in the Court. Most cases can be completed in 50 hours. To date, almost 1,350 attorneys have accepted almost 3,000 cases under the program.

How the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program Works

The cornerstones of the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program are screening of cases for merit and providing attorneys with training. The program’s staff of experienced veterans’ law specialists will screen the appeal of every individual who seeks pro bono representation from the program. Only those cases that appear meritorious and meet income eligibility guidelines are referred to volunteer attorneys.

Before accepting an appeal, all attorneys must attend a training program conducted by experts in the field. In a very few cases, distance training via DVD is available for those unable to attend in person. Each participant, upon accepting a referral, will receive:
  • a free copy of the latest version of the Veterans Benefit Manual (hard copy, CD-ROM and web-based update capability)

  • a comprehensive guide to litigating veterans’ benefits claims;
  • a memorandum discussing the facts and legal issues in the appeal;
  • the name and telephone number of the veterans’ law specialist who screened the case; and the name and telephone number of an assigned mentor from one of the sponsoring organizations, who specializes in this area of the law.

Mentors are available to discuss litigation strategy, provide sample briefs, review draft pleadings, and conduct a moot court if oral argument is granted.

There are many ways an attorney can do pro bono work. But participating in the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program offers several advantages:
  • The program provides one of the few opportunities to obtain appellate litigation experience while performing pro bono service. In addition to brief writing, some cases involve oral argument before a panel of three judges.
  • Representation before the Court can provide an opportunity to make new law. Since the Court is relatively new, some of the cases present issues of first impression.
  • The program provides significant support and training to ensure that your time is used effectively:
  • cases are prescreened for merit in advance of assignment;
  • volunteer lawyers are quickly oriented to the case with a memorandum describing the facts and legal issues;
  • further assistance is available both from the assigned case-monitor and assigned mentor;
  • volunteers participate in an in-depth full-day training program by experts, and receive a detailed practice manual after case referral.
  • Malpractice insurance is provided.
  • CLE credits are available in many states for the classroom seminar. Attendees must initiate the process individually with the CLE administrator in the state for which they seek CLE credit.

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