GSB Vol. 17, NO. 5, Pg. 32. Military Legal Assistance Program Aid Tops 500 in Two Years.

Authorby Norman E. Zoller

Georgia Bar Journal

Volume 17.

GSB Vol. 17, NO. 5, Pg. 32.

Military Legal Assistance Program Aid Tops 500 in Two Years

GSB JournalVol. 17, NO. 5February 2012Military Legal Assistance Program Aid Tops 500 in Two Yearsby Norman E. ZollerWhen the State Bar of Georgia began its Military Legal Assistance Program (MLAP) in December 2009, former State Bar President Jeff Bramlett (2008-09) noted success would be measurable when one soldier had been helped. The program was designed to connect a cadre of 700 volunteer lawyers throughout the state with military service members and veterans seeking help with a variety of legal problems.

Over the past two years, more than 500 connections have been made, a remarkable achievement and a testament to Georgia lawyers who not only devote their expertise and energy to their private clients, but who also work for the public good. And as increased dedication and commitment has been demanded of our service members stationed here in Georgia and throughout the world, this legal assistance helps offset the sacrifices they and their families make.

A 2007 Department of Defense (DoD) fact-finding mission connecting American private-sector opinion leaders with deployed service members inspired the State Bar's program. DoD invited a contingent of civilians, including Georgia attorney and Navy veteran Jay Elmore, to meet face-to-face with service members and commanders deployed across the Middle East and the Horn of Africa. At the end of the mission, DoD challenged each civilian participant to return to their private-sector lives and ponder the question: "What can be done to support those serving in harm's way?"

Elmore shared this challenge with his law partner, Jeff Bramlett, who was about to become president of the State Bar of Georgia. In response, Bramlett appointed a committee of lawyers chaired by Charles Ruffin to study the need and to develop a blueprint for recruiting, training and coordinating Georgia volunteer lawyers to meet the legal needs of service members and veterans.

"Enthusiasm for the concept among Georgia lawyers was infectious," recalls Bramlett. "The special committee looked at how other bar associations across the U.S. were - or were not-addressing the legal needs of service members and their families. We realized early on that Georgia was well-positioned to pioneer a unique and comprehensive program to deliver excellence to clients who had earned our gratitude and who needed our help." In June 2009, after months of thorough investigation, the State Bar's Board of Governors approved the creation and funding of the Military Legal Assistance Program. Norman Zoller was retained as the coordinating attorney, and the formal program was launched in late 2009. Upon establishment of the program, MLAP Chair Ruffin said, "The Bar has been considering the mechanism for an effective program to address unmet legal needs for many months, and we now look forward to this program being able to translate Jeff Bramlett's vision into operational reality."

How does MLAP help?

What kinds of services are provided and who is eligible to receive them? Basically, help is furnished on any civil matter according to the following eligibility criteria:

* Active duty service members having pre- or post-deployment related legal matters. * Veterans separated from the service with a service-connected disability who seek legal assistance directly related to that disability. * Representation for the spouse of an active duty service member where the legal issue affects the well-being of the family as a whole and the interests of the spouse and service member are aligned. *...

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