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Albany Law Students Hosting Pro Bono Events for Veterans throughout November

By Lauren Mineau
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This year’s slate of Veterans’ Rights Pro Bono Project events will pay special honor to one of Albany Law School’s own while continuing the effort to connect service members and their families with important resources to navigate the legal system.

This year’s project leaders planned the virtual events in memory of 1L SSG Joseph Gentile, who passed away in September 2020. The student-led group also hopes to raise awareness for the legal issues that face the veteran population, and remind those who served in the military that the law school has services available, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Everyone understands what veterans have given to our country and what they’ve gone through,” said Ryan Cross ’21, a director of the project. “Everyone has been so willing to help.”

Cross and fellow 3Ls David Troiano and Erica Askew, who also serve as program directors, had to switch the traditional daylong Veterans Law Day to an all virtual format.

They’ve been able to expand the offerings to multiple days of one-on-one sessions with attorneys, as well as virtual town hall meetings on timely topics such as housing, benefits, trusts and estates, and more.

The events are being held throughout the month of November. The next town hall will be Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. on “How COVID-19 Has Affected Landlord/Tenant Rights.”

As the trio planned the events, they also had a chance to reflect and look ahead on their time in law school and where they hope to channel their passion for providing resources to veterans.

Cross, who served as an Infantry Officer with the U.S. Army, is looking forward to starting his career as a litigator.

“I really enjoy helping people. I like all the opportunities that having a J.D. provides you,” he said. “You can be a private attorney, you can go into government—that appealed to me too.”

Askew completed an internship with the Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps as an Albany Law School Veterans Rights Fellow, a law school program that offers funds for students interested in veteran’s rights placements that are otherwise unpaid. After growing up and completing her education in upstate New York, she’s looking forward to exploring new parts of the world as a JAG.

“I don’t think I would have been able to accept that internship and have the experience without the scholarship,” she said. “I’m grateful for getting that opportunity that basically shaped the rest of my law school career and possibly after that.”

Troiano is making the connection with his experience in the Community Economic Development Clinic within The Justice Center to help the community at large.

“I like looking at certain areas that might not be as business driven. If we can look at the business side of things, that creates jobs that betters the community as a whole,” he said. “It’s a win-win for everyone and I’d hope to get into that.”

As Cross, Askew, and Troiano look ahead to their next chapters, they hope to inspire the coming generation of law students to keep these events for veterans moving forward. 

“If someone is transitioning out of the military, I would give Albany Law School a look. Many times, veterans getting out want to continue their service to their state or local governments or to their country. [Look at] where Albany Law is located—just a few streets from the Capitol building—along with our government law programs,” Cross said. “We’re also right next door to the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center. There are a lot of opportunities and I think it’s a great way to transition out.”

Register for a Veterans’ Rights Pro Bono Project event

Listen to the Veterans’ Rights Pro Bono Project directors on the Albany Law School Podcast: