A few years ago, we began talking about how we could do more to support veterans and their spouses. Naturally we thought of hiring, so we went looking for a place to source veterans who are lawyers. There was none. That’s when the idea for the United States’ first-ever Veterans’ Legal Career Fair was born.
The fair, now in its second year, is one of the many ways we support the women and men who have served our country. We also have an active Veterans' Forum, led by Stephen Lessard, who served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the U.S. Navy, to support our own vets. And we are doing innovative pro bono work on such issues as discharge upgrades and policies affecting transgender military personnel. We also sponsor a fellowship at Stanford Law School that enables a veteran law student to pursue a project to benefit other veterans.
Veterans’ Legal Career Fair
The first career fair took place in 2015 in Washington, D.C. Our clients Microsoft and Morgan Stanley joined us as founding sponsors, as did the American Legion, American Lawyer Media, the D.C. Diverse Partners Network and Shearman & Sterling. The event drew nearly 150 candidates. Active service members traveled from U.S. military bases around the world, joining veterans and their spouses to participate in a total of 400 interviews. Forty-five employers from across the U.S., including law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies, showed their support.
Our keynote speaker was District of Columbia Superior Court Associate Judge Robert Rigsby, an Army JAG Corps veteran who recently served as the sole U.S. military judge in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. Judge Rigsby urged candidates to translate military accomplishments into “civilian speak” in order to market themselves to the private sector. He cited their work ethic, leadership skills and management experience as key attributes. “You are people who will get to ‘yes,’ not to ‘no,’” he said.
Based on the enthusiastic feedback from candidates and employers, we will continue the Veterans’ Legal Career Fair as an annual event.
Our commitment to recruiting veteran talent extends to staff roles as well. We partner with Hire a Hero, the leading job board and employment resource for veterans and military spouses, and encourage qualified candidates to apply for positions with us.
Advocating for Veterans
Our pro bono representation of veterans is some of our proudest work. We collaborated with the New York County Lawyers’ Association to launch an innovative program to help veterans who are ineligible for such benefits as medical care and tuition assistance due to discharge status. We’ve helped several clients petition the Department of Defense for discharge upgrades, which is a key step toward getting their lives on track. In the Bay Area, we also staff legal clinics with Swords to Plowshares, to help veterans pursue discharge upgrades.
Together with the National LGBT Bar Association, our lawyers successfully represented three transgender veterans who petitioned the U.S. Army and U.S. Navy to modify military records to reflect their correct names and identities. Because military records are used to obtain benefits and preferential status when applying for jobs, incorrect records can create significant roadblocks. The executive director of the National LGBT Bar called the outcome a “life-changing
victory” for these veterans, noting that “discharge paperwork follows veterans from the time they
leave the service until, quite literally, when they die.”
Working with the University of Michigan Law School, we recently launched the Veterans Legal Clinic. We also partner with the National Veterans Legal Services Program, Lawyers Serving Warriors and the New York City Bar Justice Center’s Veterans Assistance Project to provide pro bono legal representation to veterans in need.