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Veterans’ Issues As A Practice Area

by Carolyn Elefant on May 26, 2009 · 0 comments

in Growing Your Practice, Practice Areas, Pro Bono

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A few years back, I highlighted a small firm specializing in veterans’ issues.  Now, four years later demand for legal services for veterans remains high.  Fortunately, for solos considering veterans rights and benefits as a practice area, there are multiple opportunities for first rate, hands on training.

Today, the Maryland Daily Record discusses the HPRP Veterans’ Benefits Project, which launched last year.  The program trains lawyers in the benefits process, and in turn the lawyers agree to help at least one veteran with the claims process.  Forty-four lawyers have taken part in training sessions since the program began with thirty clients obtaining assistance.  And if appellate work, rather than benefits applications is your thing, you can volunteer for the National Veterans’ Legal Services Program in Washington D.C. where you’ll receive training and have an opportunity to brief and argue a case before the Veterans’ Court of Appeals.

As a solo, you’re probably thinking that this pro bono all sounds great for laid off biglaw associates with generous severance packages but that it’s not much value for lawyers who need to earn a living.  That’s where your’e wrong.  First, handling a case pro bono is small compensation for the kinds of training that these pro bono programs provide – training that is transferable to a for-fee practice.  After all, these pro bono programs barely scratch the surface of demand, and turn away dozens of veterans who could become paying clients.   And if you don’t think veterans’ practice can be profitable, why not consider reducing overhead through the kind of virtual practice described here at VLOTech which focuses on needs of the military overseas.  Since veterans’ issues general involve federal law, you’re not limited to a regional practice and can draw clients from all over the country.

Second, even if you take on a pro bono case, you never know where it could lead.  Years back, I represented a homeless man pro bono in a lawsuit against a hotel for ejecting him from the cafe, even though he was dressed nicely and had money to pay.  I won the man a modest settlement which he used as a down payment on an apartment.  He found a job at the Better Business Bureau and referred me several paying matters, including one the produced a high five figure jury verdict (triple the settlement initially offered).  In short, don’t discount the ability of pro bono clients to refer paying cases.

Pro bono cases give you a chance to get out and work with other lawyers and lose the isolation that you can feel as a solo.   And they give you a chance to sample a new practice area without commitment.  If you don’t enjoy veterans’ work or find it too complicated, just finish up your pro bono work and move on to another practice area.

So why not think about serving those who’ve served?

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