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January 01, 2017

A Little Slice of a Large Pie: Profiling One Attorney’s Financial Literacy Outreach Efforts in the Military Community

By Benjamin J. Higgins

Existing financial literacy programs do not adequately educate military service members and their families on financial matters according to a January 2015 report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission.1 The report highlighted the prevalence of expensive practices among military service members and their families such as making only minimum payments on credit cards, incurring late fees and over-the-limit credit card charges, and borrowing from nonbank financial institutions such as pawnshops. Such poor financial management practices can be harmful to the careers of service members and can lead to financial and legal difficulties that may haunt veterans long after they leave the military.

This profile follows the experience of Donald Lassman, a Massachusetts bankruptcy attorney who sought to harness the skill and effort of local bankruptcy attorneys to help address an unmet need among the local military and veteran community for financial literacy education and access to affordable legal assistance.

On November 12, 2008, Boston-area bankruptcy attorney Donald Lassman attended the Massachusetts Bar Association’s annual gala dinner. Of the various speakers addressing the crowd that day after Veterans Day, one stood out for Lassman: Lawrence Feeney, then general counsel to the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services. Feeney spoke about an unmet need among local military service members and veterans for access to legal assistance. At the time, Lassman was serving as the co-chair of the Bankruptcy Section of the Boston Bar Association (BBA). In Feeney’s appeal, Lassman recognized an opportunity to put the efforts and skills of the local community of bankruptcy attorneys to good use. Later that evening, Lassman sought out Feeney and initiated the first in what would become a series of conversations about how Boston-area bankruptcy attorneys could best assist the underserved population of local military service members and veterans.

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