Oklahoma Bar Journal

Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes Program Celebrates Tenth Anniversary

By Julie Bays, OBA Practice Management Advisor

The Oklahoma Lawyers for America's Heroes program is a free legal assistance program for veterans and active-duty personnel who meet certain criteria. They must be an E-6 or lower if on active duty, and they must make no more than 100% of the compensable rate for disabled veterans. This equates to approximately $42,000 a year in household income.

Over the last 10 years attorneys have donated, in billable hours, a total of hours totaling over $7,500,000. That is quite impressive, and we hope that we can continue to serve a community worthy of our gratitude. Even more impressive are the changes these volunteers generated in the lives of the Heroes they helped.

As reported last year, we continue to lose volunteer attorneys due to retirement, career changes and burnout. The challenges and uncertainty of COVID-19 did not help the situation. In the past, we were able to recruit new volunteers at social events and live programs. Many events in the legal community were scaled back considerably over the last two years. We definitely need some new volunteer attorneys that are willing to give some of their time and take at least one case per year to help our Heroes.

Our volunteers have continued to step up to help veterans. Many individual attorneys worked tirelessly within their own practice areas to help Heroes with their legal needs. To the volunteers we say, thank you for all that you do. We know that some of you went well beyond what others might have expected for a “charity” case. But now these volunteers need reinforcements.

One way we may increase the number of volunteers is for attorneys with prior experience in helping Heroes in the program agree to work with and mentor younger volunteers wanting to do pro bono work. Many recently admitted attorneys want to help, but often don't know where to start. Another way may be that law firms designate one attorney within the firm as their Heroes program pro bono attorney.

Veterans in civil cases do not have an automatic right to an attorney and therefore the resources available to lower income veterans comes from programs like Heroes. They need your help.

Please go to www.okbarheroes.org to sign up and volunteer today!

Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 92 Vol 10 (December 2021)