Information for Servicemembers Seeking Pro Bono Help Through the Project
The ABA Military Pro Bono Project connects eligible, active-duty servicemembers with pro bono attorneys to assist with the resolution of civil legal issues. If you are an active-duty member of the military eligible for services through your military legal assistance office (which may include certain members of the Reserves and National Guard), you may be eligible for a referral for legal help through the Military Pro Bono Project. There are a few criteria you need to know when seeking a referral through the Project:
- Referrals are made only by military legal assistance (i.e., JAG) attorneys. If you need a referral from the Project, this referral must come from your legal assistance office. You cannot contact the Project directly for a referral. If you need legal help, contact your legal assistance attorney, and he or she will determine whether you should be referred to the Project.
- You must be financially eligible for a Project referral. The Project currently accepts servicemembers at a paygrade of E6 and below. Your JAG attorney may also consider other financial resources available to you when determining your financial eligibility. If you are at a paygrade above E6, your legal assistance attorney may still refer you to the Project, but only in cases of extraordinary need.
- The Project generally accepts cases only in specifically-defined legal areas. These are landlord/tenant, consumer law (including bankruptcy), family law, trusts and estates (including probate), guardianship, and employment. Please be aware that you will not necessarily receive a referral simply because you have a legal problem in one of these areas. Conversely, if you have a legal problem outside of these areas, you may still be referred to the Project. In either case, you will need to demonstrate a significant legal need impacting your readiness for service as a condition of referral.
- Your legal case must be meritorious. You will not be referred for insignificant legal issues or if there is no legally meritorious claim or defense available to you. Your legal assistance attorney will assist you in determining whether your case has legal good cause to be referred to the Project.
- You must demonstrate that you need a referral as a last resort. You will be referred to the Project only if your legal assistance attorney determines that legal help beyond that which can be provided by the military legal assistance office is necessary to resolve your issue. Furthermore, you must undertake all other means available to you to resolve your problem before you will be referred for attorney assistance. Your legal assistance attorney may suggest possible courses of action for you to take prior to a potential referral to the Project.
- A referral to the Project does not guarantee that you will receive a pro bono attorney. The Project relies on civilian attorneys to volunteer their valuable time to take cases from the Project with no expectation of payment. Because these attorneys are volunteers, there may or may not be an attorney available in your geographic area with expertise in your legal issue willing to donate time to take your case. Though the Project has undertaken a continuous effort to recruit pro bono attorneys for its pool of available volunteer attorneys, we cannot guarantee a volunteer attorney will be available to take your case.
- Family members may be eligible to seek a referral to the Project. Immediate family members of a servicemember meeting the above criteria may seek out a referral from a JAG attorney to the Project. The family member needs to explain why the servicemember is unable to request a referral personally (for example, if deployed overseas) and that the servicemember would have requested the referral for the particular legal issue if he or she had been available. In other words, the family member needs to be acting as a surrogate for the servicemember in the legal issue. Your legal assistance attorney can help to determine whether your family member can seek a referral on your behalf.
If you believe you meet Project financial guidelines, that you have a significant, meritorious legal issue affecting your service readiness, and that a referral to a civilian attorney is the only remaining way to resolve the problem, contact your legal assistance office to meet with a legal services attorney who can asses your case for a referral to the Military Pro Bono Project. To locate the nearest military legal assistance office, visit the AFLA Legal Services Locator.