January 2020 VIPs: Duane Morris LLP

We selected our Volunteers Inspiring Pro Bono (VIP) for January with the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in mind. His call to engage in community action to solve social problems is a part of the ethos at Duane Morris LLP, especially when it comes to Veterans in need.

Javier Centonzio, Esq.

Duane Morris LLP
TVC National Volunteer Corps

This firmwide “call to action” is why we have chosen to honor Duane Morris this month. In particular, we highlight their steadfast commitment to an initiative that The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is very proud of and committed to – our Veterans Pro Bono Legal Clinic at the DC VA Medical Center (DC VAMC), in Washington, DC.

“We have been very fortunate to work with the amazing Duane Morris team,” says Jeff Janicke, TVC Staff Attorney. “Their commitment to justice for Veterans and to our Veterans Pro Bono Legal Clinic, makes it possible for us to provide a critical service to this under-served population in our community.”

In 2016, TVC teamed up with Duane Morris and Neighborhood Legal Services Program (NLSP) to assess the need for pro bono legal services for low income Veterans in the DC area. The process began by holding pop-up legal clinics throughout the city to assess interest and impact. It quickly became clear that the need was significant and that the location best suited for the most impact was the DC VAMC.

(Left to right: Chris Tyson, Rebecca Bazan, Heidi Lunasin, Samantha Stiltner (TVC) and
Katharyn McGee)

In May of 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed by TVC, NLSP, and the DC VAMC to establish TVC’s Veterans Pro Bono Legal Clinic in the Transition & Care Management Center at the DC VAMC. Chris Tyson, Katharyn McGee and the team at Duane Morris were important partners throughout the process of negotiations and drafting of the MOU that created the Clinic, which has now served more than 1,400 Veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors.

The Clinic hosts teams of volunteer attorneys and law students from the DC area. It is completely free to Veterans and operates every Friday, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Our volunteer attorneys conduct triage based on stated needs, offer information and resources, and provide referrals. The Clinic is open to all Veterans, regardless of discharge status.

Veterans served at the Clinic often have underlying nonlegal issues that are impacting their lives as well legal issues. Each team of attorneys is provided with an updated resource guide for legal and non-legal services which Heidi Lunasin, from Duane Morris, created. These potentially life-changing resources are critical to getting Veterans the help and services they need. Duane Morris has also generously donated laptops to the Clinic in order to better manage referrals and resources.

Under the leadership of Chris Tyson, Duane Morris manages the staffing and training of their attorneys two Fridays a month. To date, more than 60% of the Duane Morris D.C. office has volunteered for a shift at the Clinic.

“The Clinic is a ‘win-win’ for all involved. It is a local connection point between the many generations of men and women who served in the military, and the current and future generations of legal professionals,” says Chris Tyson, a Veteran himself. “For the local area Veterans, many of whom are just barely scraping by or even homeless, the Clinic provides them the opportunity to confidentially discuss the issues that they are facing with a local lawyer and be provided with a direct conduit to legal and non-legal resources that can assist them.”

The Clinic is also a great opportunity for students to work side by side with experienced attorneys and to learn more about Veteran’s law. “For the volunteer attorneys and law students, the Clinic provides a meaningful connection to this special class of people, an opportunity to be part of the solution, and, when they walk away at the end of the day, that sense of happiness and fulfillment that only comes from service to another,” says Chris.

The attorneys at Duane Morris LLP have been a part of our TVC National Volunteer Corps since 1997 and have an amazing 97% success rate in their CAVC cases. They are always at the ready to assist at pop-up clinics, the Winterhaven Veterans Homeless Stand Down pro bono clinic, and new initiatives, such as a recent clinic specifically for women Veterans. They are true partners in every sense of the word. TVC knows we can always count on them and their desire to help Veterans.