From the Chair...
By Steven J. Lepper, Maj Gen, USAF (ret.)
Standing Committee on
I am humbled and honored to follow in the footsteps of a long line of distinguished public servants as I assume the Chair of the Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel. My predecessor, Butch Tate, entered his term of service with three goals: sustaining the legal assistance mission, identifying and filling gaps in new areas where we are uniquely positioned to address legal needs, and continuing collaborations with similarly focused local, state, and national programs. His success in each of these areas make his shoes extremely hard to fill.
As the new ABA LAMP Chair, my first priority will be to continue Butch’s great work and vision. His expansion of LAMP’s focus to include claims assistance to veterans recognized the significant needs of a group of men and women whose service to our Nation is no longer adequately addressed by government resources. It is a legal assistance gap that still demands to be filled, but it can’t be filled by us alone. The collaborations Butch began with the Department of Veterans Affairs and other government and non-government organizations should be broadened and deepened.
Equally important was Butch’s expansion of the pro bono legal assistance for which ABA LAMP is widely appreciated and respected. ABA LAMP’s Military Pro Bono Project gives military attorneys resources that enhance the scope and depth of military legal assistance. The expansion of pro bono services beyond the limits of traditional military legal assistance addresses the growing and otherwise unmet legal needs for which the military simply lacks the resources or authority to provide. Our biannual CLE programs bridge the military and civilian legal communities dedicated to providing these services. By pursuing through education and collaboration a common understanding of the military community’s legal needs, our CLE programs provide the connective tissue that keeps all of us working together and moving in the same direction.
Building upon these tremendous foundations of my predecessors, my vision is a future where ABA LAMP and the legal professionals who support us are one thread in a larger fabric of military service organizations dedicated and working together to support military and veteran communities. Our partnership with the Military Officers Association of America that Butch mentioned in his first ABA LAMP Chair column is an example of the kind of collaboration we should pursue with other non-legal organizations. In my day job, I serve as President and CEO of the Association of Military Banks of America, an organization the members of which are dedicated to providing financial support, services, and education to military members and their families. We work with other non-profit MSOs to provide comprehensive support to military communities. ABA LAMP can and should join that alliance.
I look forward to working with the many ABA members who have and will give their time and expertise to help the men and women who serve our Nation in uniform. While this role is new for me, the objectives we share are not. In my 35-year Air Force career, I was honored to serve with the military judge advocates and civilian attorneys who do so much for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen. In my immediate post-retirement position as the acting director of the ABA Rule of Law Initiative, I became keenly familiar with the dedication of ABA staff like Jason Vail, Mary Meixner, Kathleen Hughes, and Vickie Shea to the ABA’s principles and goals. In both roles, as well as in my current position, I was and am pleased to serve those who serve.
Finally, I know, as Butch did, that taking the helm of ABA LAMP isn’t about driving our organization in a completely new and different direction. It’s about joining a group of dedicated legal professionals and helping them continue the great work they’re doing. Together, driven by our desire to help and guided by our common vision of the future, I am confident we will accomplish our ultimate goal to provide effective, compassionate, and timely legal services to the men and women whose sacrifices make possible the rule of law in our world.