August 25, 2017 Dialogue

LRIS Plays Central Role in Coordinating Veteran’s Legal Services

By Carole Conn

Lawyer Referral programs represent an important asset that can fit many purposes to serve the public. They bring trained, knowledgeable intake staff and the expertise to make the right referral. A case study is the Veteran's Legal Resource HUB, or "V-HUB" in San Francisco, a collaboration of five partners with the LRIS at the center of the hub. With a dedicated separate phone number for veterans that rings at the LRIS, and the LRIS online referral request page, the San Francisco-Marin LRIS is a central resource providing triaging, intake and referral for the V-HUB providers.

As mentioned, the initial point of contact for a veteran to access civil legal services is through the V-HUB at http://www.sfbar.org/lawyerreferrals/vhub.aspx or 415-782-8909. Referrals are available for pro bono legal assistance in veteran’s benefits, discharge upgrades, family law, consumer debt, tax, eviction defense, housing, and employment. For nearly every other area of the law, the San Francisco-Marin LRIS offers its Military Assistance Program or M.A.P. for low-cost assistance. The V-HUB incorporates the idea of the "warm referral" with point persons designated to assist the veterans when they call at each of the V-HUB partners, including a point person at the LRIS. In this way, the V-HUB allows an easy point of entry with the name of a person at any partner organization who will shepherd further access to pro bono or low cost legal support available in our community. V-HUB receives the majority of its referrals from the Veteran's Administration and is also listed as a resource at the ABA’s website for veterans' legal services https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_assistance_military_personnel/resources/aba_home_front/directory-programs/california.html.

So, how did this all begin? In February 2014, The Bar Association of San Francisco held a Veteran's Summit and asked two fundamental questions: What are the challenges for Veterans in connecting with service providers about their civil legal needs, and what system can we create to better foster that connection?

The answer drawn from the diverse group of attendees, which included the San Francisco Veterans Justice Court, the Veterans Administration, legal service providers, law firm pro bono coordinators, law school deans, law student veterans groups, and resource specialists, was:  Centralize legal referrals and personalize the connection with the service provider to encourage follow through. After the Summit, a steering committee was formed to design the best structure to achieve those twin goals. A partnership formed thereafter between BASF's legal service programs (the Lawyer Referral and Information Service, Justice and Diversity Center pro bono program and its Homeless Advocacy Project), Golden Gate University School of Law's Veterans Legal Advocacy Center, two community based veterans’ services partners and the Veterans Administration. This community, law school and government collaboration created a three-part "hub" providing telephone, online, and in-person access to legal help for veterans.

V-HUB is now in its second year. A brochure, flyers and continued spreading of the word has generated almost a doubling of calls and emails projected for 2017 from 2016. While the V-HUB primarily serves San Francisco veterans, V-HUB calls have come to the LRIS from a variety of California cities, and once, from as far away as Nevada. The program has and will continue to make every effort to answer the veterans' calls for legal help.

Carole Conn

San Francisco-Marin LRIS Director of Public Service Programs, The Bar Association of San Francisco

Carole Conn is the San Francisco-Marin LRIS Director of Public Service Programs at The Bar Association of San Francisco and was integrally involved in the creation of the V-HUB. Her contact information is cconn@sfbar.org or 415-782-8934.