Steve Ryan 2014-09-29 12:08:05
As a former U.S. Air Force combat electronic warfare officer and then a lawyer in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Steve Ryan, of counsel to DLA Piper in Houston, is committed to assisting veterans. For the past four years, he has led the firm’s Combat-Related Special Compensation Project, a partnership with the National Veterans Legal Services Program. In addition to taking on pro bono cases, Ryan trains and advises volunteers and reviews briefs and applications. Since 2011, the CRSC Project has helped more than 195 combat veterans with disabilities. What launched your desire to do pro bono work? I was interested in pro bono work in law school, participating in clinical programs that allowed students to practice under the supervision of an attorney. As an Air Force JAG, part of my job was to provide free legal assistance to military members, their dependents, and retired military personnel. I was helping people—who otherwise would not be able to afford it—with a wide variety of legal issues. When I left active duty in 2002, pro bono work was the best way to keep that part of my practice. Describe one of your most memorable pro bono cases. I represented a Vietnam veteran with severe post-traumatic stress disorder who was completely unable to hold a job as a result. Ultimately, after more than two years of slogging through the Veterans Affairs claims system, he received 100 percent unemployability benefits as well as dependent benefits for his minor child. It changed my client’s life. He told me how many times he had been homeless and unemployed since returning from Vietnam, but now he knew that would never happen to him again and that he could be happy and secure. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to make that kind of difference in someone’s life. How much pro bono work do you do each year? I usually commit 200-300 hours a year to pro bono work. I’ve done just over 140 hours through July and will probably have another 100 hours of pro bono by the end of the year. Do you work with other attorneys or take more of an individual approach? Both. Right now, I have three veteran pro bono clients that I work with by myself. I have two other veterans cases on which I collaborate with attorneys from ExxonMobil and Intel, respectively. As the leader of DLA Piper’s CRSC Project, I’ve worked with more than 225 attorney volunteers. How do your pro bono efforts mix with your practice? I find that pro bono work meshes almost seamlessly with my practice. The strong support of my firm makes that possible. What do you find most rewarding about practicing pro bono? That moment when I tell the client that we won. Sharing the sense of joy, relief, and gratitude that the client feels at that moment is indescribable. That stays with me for a long time afterward.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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