Thanks to a VBA-sponsored fundraising effort, donations from law firms will help support a new consortium of universities and colleges in Virginia to help the state's veterans.
Serving veterans was the focus of a Nov. 4 Virginia Bar Association (VBA) event hosted in the Richmond office of McGuireWoods and sponsored by McGuireWoods and Hunton & Williams.
The event featured remarks from Va. Governor Bob McDonnell, VBA President Pia Trigiani, and W&M Law School Dean Davison M. Douglas and focused on the VBA's Veterans Initiative, which seeks to educate the state's attorneys about veterans' legal needs and to enlist attorneys to assist them on a pro bono or reduced fee basis. During VBA's Veterans Legal Services Month in November, the association is encouraging law firms to sponsor fundraisers to benefit the Law School's new Helping Military Veterans Through Higher Education (HMVHE) consortium. Last year during Veterans Legal Services Month, law firms donated more than $25,000 to support the work of the Law School's Lewis B. Puller, Jr., Veterans Benefits Clinic.
Governor McDonnell said that "we [as lawyers] have a benevolent duty to give back to the community as part of our code of ethics. I can't think of a better way for you to donate your pro bono time than by helping veterans."
"We are for the foreseeable future going to have enemies of the United States," the governor said, "which means we are going to have to continue to recruit and to retain the best and the brightest ... to defend America's interests around the world. For us to be able to continue to do that, [servicemen and women] must know and understand and feel that they are treated well and appreciated by their nation when they return from Iraq or Afghanistan or any number of places around the world."
Douglas thanked the VBA and the law firms of McGuireWoods and Hunton & Williams for "being incredible partners for veterans across the Commonwealth." While the Puller Clinic has assisted 300 veterans in its first three years of operation, Douglas said the new HMVHE consortium seeks to help even more veterans by coordinating the resources of educational institutions across the state. HMVHE member institutions to date include the College of William & Mary, Eastern Virginia Medical School, James Madison University, Lynchburg College, Old Dominion University, Radford University, Shenandoah University, the University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the Virginia Community College System.
"We also hope that HMVHE will function as a clearinghouse of information about 'best practices' for pursuing disability benefit claims," Douglas said. "We would like to take our model outside of the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are people across the country that also want to do this work."
"As you join to support the HMVHE consortium across the Commonwealth of Virginia," Douglas told the audience, "you are making a difference not just in our state, but you will be making a difference, I think, in the next few years, across our nation."