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August 05, 2015 Dialogue

LAMP: From the Chair...

By MG (ret.) Clyde J. "Butch" Tate, Standing Committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel

Like many ABA standing committees, the LAMP Committee has historically held to an annual meeting schedule that involves three business meetings in the spring, summer, and fall. What makes the LAMP Committee unique, however, is our commitment to delivering a full-day, no-cost CLE for military attorneys in conjunction with our spring and fall meetings. We hold these programs at various locations around the country where we can draw upon a significant nearby population of military attorneys to attend. And although supporting these CLEs is quite resource-intensive for a standing committee with a membership (and budget) as small as ours, delivery of high-quality continuing legal education to help military attorneys be better equipped to serve their clients has always been a core mission of the LAMP Committee.

As the civil legal needs of our nation’s military personnel have grown substantially over the course of the past decade, the LAMP Committee and the military services have come to embrace the civilian legal community as critical partners in providing access to justice for military families—and civilian attorneys have stepped up to meet this need in a major way. For example: To date, our Military Pro Bono Project has referred over 1,200 servicemember cases to civilian attorneys to provide pro bono legal assistance in nearly every state. Additionally, the LAMP Committee’s Operation StandBy now has over 600 civilian attorneys “standing by” in nearly every state to provide attorney-to-attorney consultation with military attorneys on a variety of civil legal practice areas as a way of assisting these military attorneys in the representation of their clients. And as the involvement of the civilian legal community has grown, so has the need to educate these attorneys about the many ways that military-specific civil laws and processes may arise in the course of their representation of military-connected clients, some of which they may not have previously encountered or even seen in their practices.

Thus the LAMP Committee in recent years has focused on expanding the accessibility of its twice-a-year CLE programs to allow attendance by civilian attorneys with an interest in representing military personnel in civil matters, with the same goal that we’ve always held in providing CLE for military attorneys: ensuring high-quality, well-informed representation. One challenge in accomplishing this is that we have traditionally held our CLEs on military installations that can be difficult for civilian attorneys to access due to the bases’ distance from central urban cores and the security issues involved in getting on base. We are very pleased, however, that we have been able to overcome these challenges through highly successful partnerships with other entities and organizations that provide us access to civilian attorney groups and off-base locations at which to hold our CLE programs. Last October, for example, we held our fall CLE program in conjunction with the ABA Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division (GPSolo) Fall Conference in San Antonio, which allowed us to not only bring in military attorneys from several installations in the area, but also to involve GPSolo’s civilian attorney attendees. Last March we cosponsored our spring CLE with the Washington State Bar Association’s LAMP Section, which again allowed us to effectively market our program to the area’s civilian attorneys through the state bar’s LAMP section membership. And this coming November will see the LAMP Committee holding its fall CLE in conjunction with the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA) Annual Conference in New Orleans, where we look forward to bringing in both military attorneys from across the Gulf Coast region as well as members of NAPABA itself.

The LAMP Committee welcomes the opportunity to collaborate with state, local, and specialty bars, as well as other ABA entities, in creating unique, military-focused CLE that is beneficial to our respective memberships. If your organization or entity is interested in this type of cross-collaboration, please reach out to me; we look forward to your ideas and involvement in ways we can work together to expand access to justice for our military families.