Last November, on Veteran’s Day, Jones Day, in collaboration with the American Bar Association, announced the creation of a new national pro bono legal network aimed at helping Veterans called VetLex. VetLex will be a referral network to help veterans in need find volunteer attorneys providing free and low-cost legal services. Now, Jones Day is working with the ABA to put together a pilot program and looking for attorneys to volunteer.
The goal of VetLex is to provide veterans in need with free and low-cost legal assistance, no matter their legal issue. While there will be trainings and focus on veteran-specific issues like disability benefits claims, VetLex is meant to help veterans with all kind of civil legal issues such as family law, housing law, consumer law and more, and possibly even criminal legal issues. This means there are many opportunities for pro bono attorneys to volunteer, either within their practice area or by attending a training.
“We want to link the attorneys who want to help with the veterans who need the help,” said Tara Fumerton, a partner at Jones Day and the one heading the VetLex project in the Chicago office. “We’re looking for lawyers in a wide variety of practice areas to sign up.”
Providing veterans with legal assistance has been a focus of Jones Day’s pro bono efforts for many years. What they found was that many volunteers wanted to help provide veteran legal services, and many veterans needed pro bono legal assistance, but the two groups struggled to connect. The VetLex referral network will bring them together on a national level.
“It’s an ambitious project, but it’s an issue everyone can rally behind,” said Tara. “The support and feedback from the Chicago legal community has been great and enthusiastic.”
Attorneys at Jones Day and the ABA are now setting up a pilot program to be rolled out in the next few months. They’re currently looking for attorneys who would like to volunteer. Interested attorneys can register at www.vetlex.org. Registration is not a commitment to volunteer, but a way to express interest and receive up-to-date information about trainings and getting involved.
“So many lawyers want to volunteer their time to help our veteran’s solve their legal problems,” said Lee Ann Russo, Jones Day’s Pro Bono Coordinator for the Chicago Office and PILI Board Member. “We’re proud to help match volunteer lawyers with the veterans in need of their services through VetLex.”
There are more than 21 million veterans, and it is estimated that about 1.5 million of them live in poverty. VetLex can help make sure they have access to legal assistance when it’s needed. Tara spoke on behalf of herself and her colleagues when she said, “We’re very excited and very proud to be working on this project.”