The best way to meet a need for an underserved population is to teach members of that population to help themselves and their peers.
This "Teach a Guy to Fish" concept applies to legal services as to anything else. With over a million servicemembers rotating in and out of our land wars in Asia, we confidently anticipate a landslide of legal needs going unmet.
Pro bono is good. Public legal education and reforming our laws so it's easier to navigate our legal system: also good. But they aren't enough; the numbers are just too great. We need to take some of those smart young kids who have been-there and turn them into lawyers to serve the community of veterans.
The GI Bill 2008 is a good start, but it won't put you through law school (maybe paralegal school, which is not bad.)
What we need is to recruit a big chunk of law firms to hire veterans as law clerks in the various "Lincoln Lawyers" programs in several states, that let you "Read The Law". Washington State has one, California has one (read this description of their program by a Marine who went through it)
Benefits to the Veteran
- Actual, practical experience doing law so that you come out of the program actually knowing how to file paper with the court, meet with a client, and record your expenses
- Actual, practical experience doing law so that if the work really is not for you, you can bail out before ruining the lives of your clients
- No law school debt!
Benefits to the Law Firm
- Patriotism. You can fly all the yellow ribbons you want, but this is a chance to do something that might make a difference
- Clerks who can go without sleep, work without resources, and respond to unreasonable demands with a shrug. "You want what? yeah ok, that's nothing compared to getting shot at."
- A chance to evaluate potential future associates who, if you choose to hire them as attorneys once they complete the program, can bring in a big book of business from fellow veterans, and the specialized knowledge to speak their language
- Did I emphasize the patriotism thing enough?
Are You With Us?
If you're on board, contact me and we'll get started. Sign up at the listserve: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lawyers4warriors/ and we'll plot the course - Why wait?
Or ... you can just buy another yellow ribbon magnet for your SUV.