Fighting for Those who Fought for Us
A Dedicated NetworK
In the fall of 2017, the Coordinated Advice and Referral Program for Legal Services (CARPLS), the largest provider of free legal services in Cook County, Illinois, launched a telephone hotline for the Illinois Armed Forces Legal Aid Network (IL-AFLAN), a statewide pro bono program that provides legal services and referrals to qualified veterans, service members and their spouses and dependents. The Illinois Equal Justice Foundation (IEJF) was given the authority to form and fund the network.
After the IEJF implemented an amendment to the Access to Justice Act (2013), which was passed through state legislature for funding until 2020, CARPLS was allocated funds for the veteran-specific pro bono hotline. Eight other Illinois legal-aid providers also received grants to provide direct legal services. CARPLS contacted Jenner & Block to volunteer and provide much-needed legal advice content regarding common legal issues that veterans and military family members may be facing.
With approximately 750,000 veterans in Illinois alone, civil legal services—addressing VA benefits, appeals and discharge upgrades; housing; family and consumer law—are highly sought after. To meet this need, Jenner & Block lawyers and staff reaffirmed their long-standing partnership with CARPLS by helping to build and map advice content for CARPLS’ knowledge management software.
Of Counsel Andi Kenney initially introduced Jenner & Block to CARPLS to partner on this project. Partner Abby Bried worked with staff to provide the logistical research and assistance needed to support the network. For instance, the staff drafted how-to documentation to make it easier for veterans to find and obtain military, medical and benefit records. They also created a comprehensive, up-to-date contact list of all Veteran Service Officers (VSOs) in Illinois. This proved to be extremely helpful, as VSOs assist veterans and their families by advising and educating on which veteran benefits are available from federal, state, county and local resources.
Partner Angela Allen coordinated with numerous lawyers firmwide to organize and draft legal content for the network to assist CARPLS lawyers in advising and identifying resources available for the veterans and service members who reach out for assistance. “CARPLS has substantial existing content on common legal scenarios, such as foreclosure issues, but what if someone has a foreclosure issue with a VA home loan? Or, what if someone who is stationed in Virginia has a custody issue with someone on military orders and based in Illinois? So, part of our task was to figure out how the existing CARPLS content is affected by the fact that someone is a veteran,” Angela explained. “In addition, there are some scenarios that only a veteran is going to face, like employment discrimination based upon military service or seeking a military discharge upgrade, so all of that content needs to be researched and drafted, as well.”
The IL-AFLAN hotline was first launched in a few select counties to flag any issues and record the much-needed metrics to solidify the network. Currently, IL-AFLAN is offered statewide and serves as a pilot program for other states to follow. “Now, when people call with a veteran-specific need, instead of needing to do legal research on military issues, the CARPLS lawyers can pull up the content we provided and give the proper help and resources needed,” said Angela. “And the work with CARPLS will be ongoing—as wave after wave of new calls come in, new issues will arise, and we’ll be there to provide the content needed to keep them moving in the right direction.”
Angela recently received the Exceptional Service Award by the Military Spouse J.D. Network (MSJDN) for her commitment to serving others in the military and legal communities through her state licensing work, pro bono and mentoring efforts. She is also the co-chair of Jenner & Block’s Veterans and Military Families Affinity Group, along with fellow co-chairs Associates LaRue Robinson and Grant Schweikert. Together, they create opportunities to connect across practices and offices and provide a forum to communicate information about military-related pro bono opportunities and community involvement.
“My pro bono work with the Affinity Group and MSJDN are some of my proudest accomplishments; it provides a platform for me to advocate for veteran and military issues, and I’ll continue to do so throughout my career. I cannot wait to see what we can accomplish next.”
Providing a Forum to Aid Judge Advocates General
When the Judge Advocates Association needed a place to host its “Jobs for JAGs” event, Partner Marc Warren, who previously served in the US Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, was quick to volunteer Jenner & Block’s DC office to host nearly 80 participants for this significant occasion. “We all owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans and their families; our efforts to do our part have led to several of our lawyers serving as resources to review resumes of attendees and offer transition advice,” said Marc.
The all-day seminar in the fall of 2017 focused on assisting Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard lawyers in the process of transitioning from the military to civilian workforce. Attendees learned about topics such as preparing for civilian-style applications and interviews, translating military experience into civilian experience and identifying areas of employment opportunities in the private and public sectors.
“It’s a difficult transition to make; both Marc and I can attest to that,” said Associate Grant Schweikert, who was a panelist during the event and also serves as a lieutenant commander and judge advocate in the Navy Reserve. “The military teaches you a lot of valuable skills that are extremely useful in the civilian workforce. Admittedly, it’s not traditional experience, so translating these skills can be tough. And it’s especially challenging because the majority of law firms focus on recruiting either first-year associates straight out of law school or experienced partners with an established book of business. I think this group of military lawyers represents a large pool of talent that, unfortunately, sometimes goes unnoticed.”
General John Miller (USA Ret.) and senior counsel at BAE Systems, Inc. joined Grant and Marc on the panel, where they discussed private sector employment, their experiences in transitioning out of military law and the parallels they’ve found along the way that helped them build a successful law practice.
As co-chair of the firm’s Aviation and Aerospace Practice, Marc was eager to share his experiences and was grateful for the opportunity to give back to the veteran legal community. “From our military pro bono projects, through our support for military spouses, to events like Jobs for JAGs—our firm is ‘all in’ when it comes to supporting those who have sacrificed for our defense. It’s part of our respect for diversity and inclusion and our commitment to public service.”