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Serving Those Who Served: New York State Bar Association Offers Program on How to Represent Military Veterans

Expert Panels Explore Growing Legal Needs, Impact of Military Culture and Opportunities to Help

Addressing a growing need for veterans’ legal services, the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Veterans is presenting a daylong program on preparing attorneys to represent military veterans and active service members.

Experts will provide valuable insight into the culture of veterans from military experience, to physical and psychological issues faced by veterans, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and homelessness and its impact on veterans’ legal needs.

The program will take place on Tuesday, January 24, between 9 a.m. (registration) and 5:30 p.m. It is part of the New York State Bar Association’s 135th Annual Meeting at the Hilton New York in Manhattan and is open to State Bar Association members and nonmembers. The Continuing Legal Education (CLE) program qualifies for 5 credit hours in professional practice and 1 credit hour in ethics.

The session will highlight the success of the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, the first in the nation; describe the veterans benefit claims process; and address ethical issues involved in representing veterans. Information will be provided about the free civil legal services for qualifying veterans and their families through legal services organizations and some local bar associations.

State Bar President Vincent E. Doyle III of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo) has made addressing the unmet legal needs of veterans a priority of the State Bar. In 2011, he created the Special Committee on Veterans to explore these needs and to recommend solutions. The committee’s final report is expected to be issued in April.

President Doyle said, “More than 1 million veterans call New York state home and that number is growing. After risking their lives for us, too many of our brave military men and women come home facing issues that seem overwhelming. This program will teach New York attorneys how to help ensure that veterans do not suffer because of their service, but instead get the legal help they deserve.”

The program includes:

9:50 – 10:00 a.m.: Introductory remarks

10:05 – 11:05 a.m.: “Understanding Military Culture and Its Impact on Veterans’ Legal Needs”: Led by experienced clinicians and attorneys, this panel explores military culture, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, depression and their impact on providing effective legal representation to veterans. Moderator: Karen Hennigan, co-chair, NYSBA Special Committee on Veterans. Panelists: Tina Atherall, executive vice president, Hope For the Warriors; Carol Davidson, director, Samaritan Village, Inc; Col. Charles M. Grinnell, 7th Legal Support Operation; and John G. Powers (Hancock Estabrook).

11:05 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.: “Ethical Issues that May Arise in Representation of Veterans”: Speaker: Perry D. Krinsky (Krinsky PPLC).

12:15 – 12:45 p.m.: “Understanding Veterans’ Rights Under USERRA”: Speaker: Greg T. Rinckey, (Tully Rinckey).

12:45 – 1:45 p.m.: Luncheon speaker: Jack L. Rives, former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Air Force, the first military attorney to serve in the three-star rank as lieutenant general. He is currently executive director of the American Bar Association.

1:45 – 3:15 p.m.: “A Primer on Veterans Benefit Claims”: Speaker: Katrina J. Eagle, immediate past president of National Organization of Veterans’ Advocates.

3:15 – 4:15 p.m.: “An Introduction to Veterans Courts and Veteran Court Members”: The panel will discuss the veterans’ court model and some of the support services provided by the VA. Moderator: Michael C. Lancer, co-chair, NYSBA Special Committee on Veterans. Panelists:Judge Robert T. Russell, Jr., Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court, and Jack O’Conner, mentor coordinator, Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court.

4:25 – 5:30 p.m.: “Overview of Legal Services for Veterans Provided by Legal Services Organizations and Bar Associations”: Panelists: Carol Bockner, director of Pro Bono Initiatives, City Bar Justice Center; Ellen C. Schell, counsel/director of Military Families Project, The Legal Project; John G. Powers (Hancock Estabrook); Lillian M. Moy, executive director, Legal Aid Society; and Timothy J. Fennell, (Amdursky Pelky Fennell & Wallen).

The CLE fee will be waived for attorneys who agree to represent a veteran pro bono in a civil legal matter referred through an identified bar association program, volunteer lawyers project, veterans clinical program or legal services provider. For lawyers who wish to register online, go to For more information on the Annual Meeting including complete event schedule, registration and fees, go to

More than 5,000 attorneys are expected to attend the weeklong Annual Meeting.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.


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