Pro Bono Case Opportunities for Volunteer Attorneys
If you are interested in helping with any of the listed cases, please contact the Project Director, Mary Meixner, at email@example.com. You will then be provided with conflict check information and, if you have no conflicts, further information about the case.
ABA Military Pro Bono Project FAQs
- What civil legal needs of servicemembers will the Project serve?
Extended American military missions overseas have generated unprecedented civil-law challenges for servicemembers, many of whom have left family, home, and job for years at a time to serve their country in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other locations. Our servicemembers are increasingly saddled with legal needs that distract them from their mission and can make their already difficult daily lives even more challenging. These needs are arising in the areas of consumer law, family law, landlord-tenant, and other areas. Their families often unfortunately require assistance in the area of probate, trusts and estates, or guardianship law.
The Military Pro Bono Project directly helps servicemembers who are sacrificing greatly for their country by moving pro bono referrals straight from military legal assistance offices to willing-and-able private sector lawyer volunteers throughout the country.
- Where do the cases come from?
All cases originate with a referring military attorney (JAG) in a military legal assistance office. The JAG interviews the client, collects substantive case information, and screens for income eligibility, as most referred clients will typically have a paygrade of E6 or lower. The attorney will also determine whether the case is legally meritorious and has adequate cause for referral based on an analysis of a number of qualitative factors. Thus, participating firms can be assured that only those clients with the most significant legal needs will be referred.
- How do I receive potential case referrals?
Registration is quick and easy! Click the Attorney Registration link on the right side of the website. You will be prompted to provide information that will become your registered profile with the site. Once you are registered, you will receive emails so you can stay up-to-date about pro bono case opportunities in your geographic area and within your substantive legal areas of expertise. Please note, however, that registration with the Project does not guarantee you will receive pro bono cases.
- What types of cases may be available?
The Project generally accepts cases in the following legal areas:
(1) Consumer law, particularly predatory lending issues and those implicating the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, and including some chapter 7 bankruptcies;
(2) Employment law, including cases involving the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act;
(3) Family law cases in limited types of disputed family law proceedings where a significant interest of a servicemember is at stake in a disputed proceeding;
(4) Guardianship, especially where a servicemember's spouse or family member seeks to secure a guardianship of an incompetent servicemember;
(5) Landlord-tenant, for tenants in all manners of disputes with landlords, including eviction;
(6) Probate, including assistance to a servicemember's next of kin;
(7) Tax law, ranging from complex tax return preparation to resolution of federal tax debts and liens; and
(8) Trust and estates for the creation of special needs trusts or estate planning assistance otherwise beyond the normal scope of work of the military legal services offices.
Please note that there is a high need for family law cases.
- Do I have to accept all case referral requests sent to me?
Though we hope you will take as many cases as you can, registration with the site does not obligate you in any way. When you receive a case referral via email, you may either accept or decline the case by responding to the email. Also, after you confirm that you have no conflicts with the case’s parties, the Project will provide you with further case information and documents so you can confirm that you would like to take that particular case.
- How do I prevent conflicts of interest?
All referral requests will be accompanied with sufficient information for you to run a conflict check within your firm. When you register with our website, you may choose to designate a legal assistant or some other member of your firm to receive this conflict check information. The Project will never send you confidential case information until you have confirmed that no conflict exists.
- How will the cases be screened to ensure that only meritorious cases on the part of financially qualified clients are referred to my firm?
All referred cases will originate in military legal assistance offices. These attorneys (JAGs) will assess the case and determine whether it meets the Project's guidelines, and whether the client has a meritorious legal position and available legal remedy based on the facts as understood by the attorney. The case referral, including all factual and legal analysis, will be secondarily reviewed by a Supervising Military Attorney, often higher in rank than the referring JAG, to ensure that the referral is substantively meritorious and contains all information necessary for a pro bono attorney to quickly assess the case. Finally, the ABA Military Pro Bono Project Director, who is an attorney, will review the case for merit while making determinations about appropriate firm placement.
- What are my obligations once I accept a case?
When accepting a case, you are agreeing to assist the servicemember to reach a resolution of his or her civil legal issue without charge. Whatever case file creation, timekeeping, retainer agreement, or any other requirement of your firm when accepting a case is your own responsibility. After accepting a case, you will receive an email from the Project every three months that will request a brief update on the status of the case and, if it is complete, a request for a short summary of the result and the number of pro bono hours that you dedicated to helping the client. The reporting requirements through the Project are minimal and will require only a few minutes of your time.
- I am a pro bono coordinator in a large law firm. How can I get my pro bono attorneys involved in the Project?
If you supervise attorneys who do pro bono work, you may register with the Project website as a pro bono coordinator. You will receive a weekly email about the latest open pro bono cases, which you may distribute to your organization’s attorneys. After attorneys from your organization accept cases, you will have the opportunity to access the case files on which your volunteers are working.
- I know very little about legal issues specific to military personnel in civil cases. If I accept a referral, where can I go for support and training?
Members of the military have special legal protections that may be asserted in civil proceedings under certain circumstances. For example, the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) can be a powerful tool to protect the legal rights of military personnel. You can download educational materials from our online library.
- I am an attorney who has retired from active practice. Can I still provide pro bono assistance?
Emeritus pro bono practice rules encourage retired and inactive attorneys to volunteer to provide pro bono assistance to clients unable to pay for essential legal representation. Many jurisdictions have adopted emeritus pro bono rules waiving some of the normal licensing requirement for attorneys agreeing to limit their practice to volunteer service. Find further information about emeritus attorney rules in your state, and contact your state bar for further information.
- What if I do not have malpractice insurance?
The Military Pro Bono Project is unable to provide malpractice insurance for pro bono work through the program. Although coverage is not required to participate, please understand potential risks of practicing without insurance.
- Why was the ABA Military Pro Bono Project created?
The Military Pro Bono Project is managed by the ABA Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP). Unlike several legal service programs that have surfaced to assist veterans, the Military Pro Bono Project is uniquely focused on provision of pro bono services to active-duty servicemembers, many of whom remain deployed to areas of conflict. Three primary factors moved the ABA to take on this Project:
- Strong expressions of interest from firms across the country in assisting active-duty servicemembers;
- The lack of a central clearinghouse for generating and monitoring referral of active-duty cases; and
- Recognition that the military services' own legal assistance offices, despite their excellent record of client service, are not in position in the current environment, to assist every servicemember with a civil legal dispute that may arise in any state or locality in the country.
In many states, for example, a military attorney is not allowed, by state court rules, to appear in court on behalf of a servicemember client. Many active-duty servicemembers, including members of the National Guard and Reserve components, have legal disputes arising in their home areas where their service branch simply has no legal assistance presence. Volunteer lawyers under the program will be in position, for example, to handle a qualifying court case for an active-duty servicemember who otherwise would lack access to representation.