Place of employment: Grimes Teich Anderson, LLP
Area of practice: Veterans Law
Favorite class/professor in law school: Congress and the Presidency/ Michael Gerhardt
Pro Bono experience in law school: NC Department of Agriculture, Wills and estate work for elderly, Assisted veterans with claims
What inspired or prompted you to start doing Pro Bono work? I wanted to do pro-bono work long before I ever went to law school. Just a little free assistance can go a long way to those who need it the most, regardless if it is legal, medical, social, or occupational.
What does your current Pro Bono practice look like? I just completed the initial phase of a pro-bono clinic for homeless veterans. Assisted by two other attorneys and UNC Law’s VALOR student organization, I am working to upgrade less-than-honorable military discharges so homeless veterans can better access housing and employment. I also assist the local Veterans Treatment Court with any discharge upgrades needed and routinely assist veterans of low means better navigate the VA healthcare system and find employment.
How has your Pro Bono work benefited you? (ie. your career, business development if in private practice, professional development, networking, etc.)? Though pro-bono doesn’t pay any bills, it sure enriches my spirit. I really cannot separate my pro-bono practice from my fee-generating practice – they’re both so intertwined and dependent upon each other.
What challenges do you face in completing Pro Bono work? What strategies do you employ to overcome those obstacles? As stated above, my pro-bono practice is so integrated into my fee-generating practice that it is really hard to view them separately. As far a strategy goes, my professional goal is to help veterans live a life of dignity as they deserve, regardless if it is fee-generating or pro-bono.
Which Pro Bono experience gave you the most personal or professional pride? It all does. It’s all just steps in a larger scheme, each one just as important as the other.
What is one new thing you learned from Pro Bono work that you would not have known otherwise? Attorneys who do not do regular pro-bono work sure miss out on one of the most precious gifts – giving without expecting anything in return.
What motivates you to continue doing Pro Bono work? As a combat veteran myself, I know what veterans can go through. My fellow soldiers sure helped me out when I needed it the most and I am morally obligated to do the same for them.
How do you find your Pro Bono projects? I usually just make them up as I go. The last big project came to life because I was sitting at my desk thinking that a lot of homeless vets are that way because of bad discharges. It inspired me to do something about it and soon I was on the phone with the law school and homeless shelters trying to pull something together.
Do you prefer to handle Pro Bono projects on your own or do you like to work with a non-profit or other partner organization? Why? I just like to help veterans. I could care less who it is done through or who gets the credit. I have found that I usually get better funding if I offer to give the credit to some large group or non-profit.
What is the single best reason you can give a law student to continue Pro Bono service in practice after graduation from law school? It will make you a better person, period.
Do you have a project, need, or organization that you’d like to tell the UNC alumni network about? Veterans need assistance throughout this state and country. Just a few hours of your time can have a great impact upon their quality of life.
Posted by James G. Wudel on Mon. August 1, 2016 9:00 AM