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Serving veterans is a responsibility — and an honor — that Albany Law’s students have taken to heart.
On October 29, 40 veterans received free one-on-one legal consultations at the student-organized
Veterans Law Day. In all, about 100 veterans and their family members attended the annual event presented by the law school’s
Pro Bono Program and Veterans’ Rights Project.
“As a student and a veteran, the pro bono law day gives me a chance to help my fellow veterans who are in need,” said Aristeas Tzovaras ’17, a U.S. Army veteran who
received a Purple Heart for his service in Afghanistan. “The law school provides access to help that many vets need, and I think that taking care of our service members is one of the most important things a community can do.”
This year’s Veterans Law Day was co-directed by third-year students David Crossman and Kayla Champagne. Organizers included Tzovaras, Tinamarie Fisco ’17 and Pro Bono Society president Andrew Matott ’17.
“My main goal when I came to law school was to help people, and volunteering for Veterans' Law Day was the most rewarding experience I had when I was a 1L,” Champagne said. “So having the opportunity to help many veterans by being a co-director with David was something that I am grateful I had the chance to do.”
“The main point of the law day was the services donated so generously by so many area attorneys,” Crossman said. “Speaking to those veterans who received a consultation and gave us positive feedback was probably the biggest highlight for me.”
Planning Veterans Law Day was no small task. The students had to assemble a team of volunteer attorneys with experience in family law, housing, wills, employment, and other issues for the counseling sessions. Community partners were brought in for a resource fair that provided veterans with free information on a range of legal and non-legal services. And then, to get the word out, they handed out flyers at the nearby VA Medical Center.
The day included a keynote speech from Terry Kindlon ’73, a well-known defense attorney and Purple Heart recipient from his time in the U.S. Marine Corps, and opening remarks by Benjamin Pomerance ’13, deputy director of program development for the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs, who organized Albany Law’s first law clinic for veterans in 2012.
“I really wouldn’t have been involved in the project without Benjamin Pomerance — who I met in person for the first time on Veterans Law Day — and not just because he is the founder of the Veterans' Rights Pro Bono Project,” Crossman said. “I read a law review article he wrote about the pitfalls that elders face in the VA claims process when I was preparing a paper last fall for Professor [Rose Mary] Bailly’s Elder Law class. That article really brought home to me how invaluable pro bono services are to veterans in the claims process. Of course, they have just as much need in other areas of the law as well.”
“I also enjoyed meeting Benjamin’s parents at the law day,” he added. “They described Veterans Law Day as Benjamin’s ‘child’ and their ‘grandchild.’
In the keynote, Kindlon spoke of his experiences in Vietnam, as a returning veteran, and as a veteran at Albany Law School in the 1970s. “He also made an excellent point about veterans’ issues being too often politicized and their service becoming fodder for political campaigns,” Crossman said.
Crossman and Champagne made it a point to thank their fellow organizers, volunteers (led by Amanda Cole ’18 and Chris Hall ’18), Pro Bono Director Professor Lianne Pinchuk, Professor Rose Mary Bailly of the Government Law Center, event sponsor BNY Mellon, and all the volunteer attorneys and community partners.
Together they made Veterans Law Day a success — and continued a legacy of service to veterans at Albany Law School.
“I think the most rewarding experience on Veterans Law Day is seeing the appreciation from the veterans and their families,” said Tinamarie Fisco ’17. “All too often, we fail to recognize our veterans and the sacrifices they have made for our country. Being able to assist them in any way possible is just a small way Albany Law School's Pro Bono Society can say thank you to them for their service.”
Photos: 2016 Veterans Law Day