Volunteer to Take a Case Before the CAVC

Thanks for your interest in representing veterans and their dependents or survivors in their appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC). We appreciate your volunteer spirit! Below we provide you with information about the Program and how it works.

If you want to volunteer or need any additional information that is not covered below please contact Courtney Smith, Director of Volunteer Outreach & Education at (202) 733-3323 or Courtney.Smith@vetsprobono.org

The Program works as follows: We provide training free of charge to attorneys who agree to counsel and/or represent a veteran/VA claimant or family member before the Veterans Court. As well as receiving the day-long training, attorneys who participate are assigned a case that has been screened for merit and provided a screening memo outlining the issues in the case. Volunteers are also assigned a mentor (a practicing veterans' law lawyer or practitioner) to give advice and share sample pleadings. Attorneys also receive the Veterans Benefits Manual (VBM) and other resource materials.

Attorneys who participate receive free training in exchange for a commitment to handle at least one appeal that is before the Veterans Court. Attorneys with little or no prior veterans' law experience are generally able to capably represent an appellant before the Veterans Court provided they attend the training seminar and maintain contact with their mentor. Most cases can be completed in 50 to 60 hours; many cases may require fewer hours. A typical case lasts about 1 year from the time that the attorney enters the case. Some cases may be resolved more quickly and some may take longer.

The main benefit of volunteering to counsel and/or?represent a veteran in an appeals case is that the veteran will receive the help he or she needs to prove entitlement to VA benefits. In addition, participating in the Pro Bono Program offers several other advantages:
  • The Program provides one of the few opportunities to obtain appellate litigation experience while performing pro bono service. Most cases involve appellate brief writing and some cases may involve oral argument.
  • Representation before the Court can provide an opportunity to make new law since the Court is still relatively new and cases may present issues of first impression
  • The Program provides significant support and training to ensure that your time is used effectively. Cases are prescreened for merit in advance of assignment; volunteer attorneys are quickly oriented to the case with a memorandum describing the facts and legal issues; further assistance is available from the assigned mentor; volunteer attorneys participate in an in-depth full-day training seminar by experts and receive a detailed practice manual.
  • Malpractice insurance is provided.
  • CLE credits are available.

The Program provides the following resources to participating attorneys:
  • A day-long training seminar in veterans' law and 3 training booklets that are distributed at the training (the training booklets are also available online for participating attorneys).
  • Once the attorney accepts a case,?a free copy of the Veterans Benefits Manual, a comprehensive guide for advocates handling veterans' benefits claims and appeals (usually 2 bound volumes and a CD-ROM).
  • A mentor who specializes in veterans' law, to discuss litigation strategy, provide sample pleadings, review draft pleadings, and conduct a moot court if oral argument is ordered. Mentors are invaluable in providing advice and consultation concerning the appeal.

TBD

TVC Legal Scholars Program

We operate The Veterans Consortium Legal Scholars Program as part of our mission to encourage and facilitate pro bono representation by law school, clinical and other appropriate programs. This effort introduces law students to the federal Veterans Pro Bono Program and exposes them to careers serving veterans and their families, caregivers and survivors. This program is comprised of several TVC projects including:

Law Clinic Partners

A number of law school clinical programs across the country teach law students about veterans law and how to handle VA benefit claims and appeals. Part of the mission of The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program is to encourage and facilitate pro bono representation of veterans, their loved ones, and their surviving family members through these law school clinical programs. We support these law clinic partners by training clinical professors and participating law students, by providing them with screened pro bono cases from The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, plus mentoring support.

We are happy to work with law school clinics who are interested in taking an appeals case as a Program Partner. The Veterans Consortium requires participating law clinics to have at least one supervising professor/advisor throughout a case. In most instances we require the professor/advisor who runs the clinical program be trained by The Veterans Consortium and to have handled at least one veterans appeal through the Pro Bono Program. The training requirement may be waived in certain cases.

The training provided by The Veterans Consortium comes through a free day-long seminar which teaches attendees about veterans law and effective representation at the U.S. Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims (CAVC).

Any lawyer/professor who attends this training must agree to represent a veteran (or a veteran’s loved one or surviving family member) before the CAVC. Cases can take up to a year to complete and take about 60 hours if they do not require participation in an oral argument. Only about 1% of cases go to oral argument.

Any clinical advisor wishing to become involved in a clinical program or needing further information can contact Courtney Smith at courtney.smith@vetsprobono.org. If you’d like your law clinic or program to be added to our group of schools (below), please send a description of your clinic’s mission and contact information to Courtney Smith at the above email address. Additionally, if you are considering starting a veterans law school clinic or service program, please contact us so we can assist you.