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clients included the original Ninfa’s Restaurant on Navigation, the Pappas restaurants and Antone’s Po-Boys. At 96, Roggen still works and still drives. But when he needed legal services, he needed help. A friend who is a nurse at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center told Roggen about the Houston Bar Association’s Veterans Legal Initiative and the legal clinics held there every Friday afternoon. Roggen and his wife of 53 years, Sydney, a cancer survivor, needed to have their wills revised and decided to visit the legal clinic. The Roggens sat down with volunteer attorneys, who listened to their legal needs and helped them fill out the required forms. Once it was determined that the couple qualified for pro bono legal services, their case was assigned to volunteers with the University of Houston’s legal clinic, one of many organizations, law firms, corporations and individual attorneys who volunteer for the VLI. “I can’t begin to tell you the attention we received. It was outstanding,” said Roggen. “I think it’s wonderful what they do to help veterans. Many don’t have resources, just don’t have the funds.” Roggen is among nearly 9,600 veterans who have been served, since 2008, through the Veteran’s Legal Initiative (VLI), a coalition of the Houston Bar Association, Houston Bar Foundation, Jefferson County Bar Foundation, Fort Bend Lawyers Care, Baylor Law School and Austin Bar Association. The program is funded through grants from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, Houston Bar Foundation and other service providers, and operated through the HBA’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers (HVL). The program offers both Friday afternoon clinics at the DeBakey VA Medical Center and Saturday morning clinics on selected dates throughout a 17-county area. Counties included in the VLI service area are: Bell, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Hardin, Harris, Jefferson, Liberty, McLennan, Montgomery, Orange, San Jacinto, Travis, Walker and Waller. In 2014, the VLI held its first clinics in Brazos County, with as-

sistance from the Earl Graham American cent increase in the number of veterans’ Legion Post and the Texas A&M Veteran cases assigned to volunteers through the Resource & Support Center. Saturday legal advice clinics during this Attorneys volunteer their time to staff bar year. the clinics to give legal advice, answer Veteran attendance at the Friday clinlegal questions and assist with intake for ics is also growing—and there is always ongoing pro bono legal representation. a need for more volunteer attorneys. “It’s While any veteran, regardless of income, such an easy way to give back to our comcan receive advice and counsel at the clinmunity,” says Taylor Lamb, an associate ics, veterans do need to meet financial at Gray, Reed & McGraw, P.C., in Housguidelines for free onton. Often attorneys For a list of resources for going legal representathink they are too veterans and attorneys, visit tion. The guidelines busy to volunteer, but differ slightly accordthe clinics are a “great the Veterans Legal Initiative ing to the sponsoring gateway into pro page at program and take into bono work,” counters consideration family size, assets and exLamb, because they “provide a platform penses. for people to meet clients face to face and What can veterans expect at a Legal to provide basic assistance to veterans in Advice Clinic? The veteran will sign in the form of legal intake into the HVLP and fill out an application for legal servicprogram.” es. Once the form is completed, the vetMoreover, there’s no requirement that eran will meet with a volunteer attorney an attorney volunteering at the clinic later who will listen to the veteran’s story, anaccept a pro bono case, making it a perswer legal questions and provide legal adfect volunteer opportunity for the attorney vice to the extent possible. If the attorney with only a few hours to spare. Although believes the veteran needs ongoing legal Lamb’s expertise is in corporate transacrepresentation, and the veteran qualifies tions, she has volunteered at the clinic for service, he or she will be referred to several times and, with help from HVL, a volunteer attorney who will handle the taken on more than one pro bono family case pro bono. law case. According to Lamb, “volunteerVeterans can get help with family law ing at the Veterans’ Clinic often provides issues, wills and probate, consumer/ people with the personal connection and credit problems, landlord tenant issues, extra confidence to take a pro bono case.” tax questions, disability and veterans The Houston Bar Association has develbenefits and many other legal issues. The oped a web page that includes an attorney program has built strong relationships volunteer form and lists upcoming free lewith the Texas Veterans Commission gal advice clinics, as well as many other (TVC), the local VA office and organizaresources for veterans, at http://www.hba. tions such as American Legion and VFW org/services/veterans-legal-initiative/. To posts. A representative from the TVC is volunteer at one of the veterans’ legal clinpresent at every Saturday clinic to answer ics, including the weekly Friday afternoon benefits questions, and most clinics are clinic at the DeBakey VA Medical Center, held at either VA outpatient clinics or one contact Andrew Lehman at 713-228of the posts. 0735, or e-mail him at andrew.lehmann@ “I would encourage as many vets as possible to seek services from the program,” Roggen said. “The attention and Tara Shockley is the communications director care given me were outstanding.” for the Houston Bar Association and managing The need for legal services for veterans editor of The Houston Lawyer. Nicole Bakare continues to grow. The VLI saw a 37 perpractices with Cozen O’Connor and is a member cent increase in attendance and a 48 perof The Houston Lawyer editorial board.

September/October 2014



The Houston Lawyer magazine, September/October 2014 issue