Supporting Our Service Members “This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” — Elmer Davis In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson declared Nov. 11 the first Armistice Day, an observance of the agreement between the Allied nations and Germany that brought an end to World War I. Armistice Day became an official holiday in 1938, and since 1954 we have known it as Veterans Day. The United States now has approximately 21 million veterans, and Texas is home to about 1.7 million heroes. As Americans, we often fixate on living life to the fullest—and commonly in our own self-interest, as seen with the recently popular acronym YOLO (“You Only Live Once”). But what can we do for those who selflessly have sacrificed everything—even their lives—for us? Past State Bar President Terry Tottenham, a retired Marine, understands the needs of veterans. In 2010, he launched Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans to develop and assist with pro bono legal clinics for military veterans who can’t afford or lack access to legal services. Today, 4,000 volunteer attorneys have helped more than 13,000 veterans with legal matters pertaining to bankruptcy, housing, employment, wills and estate planning, and landlord-tenant disputes. More than 55 local bar associations host legal advice clinics for veterans in Texas, and the State Bar has shared the program with attorney organizations and pro bono groups in 25 other states. To further the mission, the Texas Young Lawyers Association produced and distributed two informative guides— Resources for Veterans Seeking Help and Resources for Lawyers Assisting Veterans— to more than 13,000 veterans and nearly 3,400 lawyers last year alone. The Texas Access to Justice Commission raised more than $351,000 through its annual Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans to offer legal services to veterans with limited incomes. Moreover, through the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, the State Bar and the Texas Court Reporters Association have partnered to record more than 200 interviews with veterans across the state. Our commitment to veterans is part of our profession’s noble tradition of pro bono service and is in line with one of our core callings as lawyers. According to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, which marks its 25th anniversary this month, we are “responsible to assure that all persons have access to competent representation regardless of wealth or position in life.” When the Supreme Court of Texas and the Court of Criminal Appeals adopted the Texas Lawyer’s Creed on Nov. 7, 1989, as a mandate for professionalism, Texas became the first state in the nation whose highest courts had set forth standards to be adhered to by all attorneys. Understanding the importance of professionalism, 2012-2013 State Bar President Buck Files worked with members of these courts to reaffirm the creed as a reminder of the standards we must uphold when working with clients, judges, and fellow lawyers. As an attorney, you are vital in helping our veterans receive the legal assistance they need, and I encourage you to get involved with a legal clinic in your community. You can view listings of upcoming clinics and other resources online at texasbar.com/veterans. Let us not take for granted what each man and woman of the armed forces has endured. We all have a special talent or area of expertise that we can use to make a difference in this world. Let’s start by making a positive impact in the lives of our very own veterans. TREY APFFEL President, State Bar of Texas @ApffelT
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