In 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans, not just those who had served in World War I. Three years before his death in 1985, the “Father of Veterans Day” was presented with the Presidential Citizenship Medal for initiating the idea for the national holiday.
In 1946, The Bar Association of San Francisco (BASF) established the “Lawyer Reference Service” as an outgrowth of the legal referrals provided to veterans returning from World War II. Similar to Weeks’ vision to expand the definition of “veteran,” so too BASF founded the Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) with the vision to include referrals for anyone in need of legal assistance.
While LRIS has always provided legal referrals to veterans as members of the general population, in 2011 LRIS reasserted a dedicated focus to better serve the veteran and military community with the establishment of its Military Assistance Program (MAP). Under MAP, LRIS attorney panel members assist veterans and military personnel and their families with legal services at sliding scale rates in a wide variety of civil law practice areas, including family law, landlord/tenant, tax, wills, bankruptcy, and consumer matters.
To help spread the word to veterans, LRIS participates in community events, such as the Veterans Administration’s Veterans Town Hall meetings and has forged referral partnerships with established and emerging entities that assist veterans, including Swords to Plowshares and Golden Gate Law School’s Veterans Legal Advocacy Center. On November 12, LRIS legal interviewers will provide intake assistance in both Chinese and Tagalog to senior veterans at a legal clinic sponsored by the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. An LRIS panel attorney will also be on hand to assist with legal questions.
This past February, LRIS and the Justice & Diversity Center’s Pro Bono Legal Services Program of BASF, participated in BASF’s first ever Veterans Summit, which brought together service providers, veteran’s groups, law firm pro bono coordinators, the court and government, to brainstorm a better way to provide legal services and referrals to our community of San Francisco veterans. The initial work of the summit continues with efforts to develop a structure for better legal referral coordination online, by telephone and in person.
Through MAP, our community involvement, and streamlined referrals, we stay committed to our goal to increase the accessibility of affordable legal help for veterans. We hope you can join us in being part of that goal. Become a MAP participant in your area of practice and serve those who have served, those to whom we pay special tribute to this coming Veteran’s Day.