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Civilian Lawyers Mobilize To Provide Legal Help, If Needed

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 19, 2001 – How many lawyers will be needed to provide legal services for America's service men and women deployed in the war against global terrorism?

The answer to that question is unknown, because no one knows how many military -- particularly Guard and Reserve members -- will ultimately be called up for overseas service in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle homeland defense missions. To date, more than 50,000 reserve component members have been tabbed for active duty.

However, through Operation Enduring LAMP -- Legal Assistance for Military Personnel -- program, the American Bar Association is "activating" private-sector lawyers to supplement military lawyers' efforts, if required, said Army Col. Steve Strong, director of legal policy in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

The program officially kicked off Nov. 13, Strong noted. The Chicago-based ABA expressed interest in helping the military, he said, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and the terrorist-hijacked airliner crash in Somerset County, Pa.

"The size of our active duty legal providers is tailored to the size of the active force," Strong remarked. If reserve call-ups swell the force greatly, then "we'll need civilian lawyers to help," he added.

According to Strong, the ABA is now working to:

  • Identify and organize, with assistance from local and state bar associations, private attorneys willing and able to provide free legal services to military members. If necessary, military legal assistance offices would refer clients using compiled ABA lists of participating attorneys.

  • Educate civilian lawyers about the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (see http://www.defenselink.mil/ra/ or http://www.esgr.org/) and other military law.

    ABA members will be able to obtain military law information free through a toll-free Dec. 19 conference call. More Operation Enduring LAMP information can be found on the ABA Web site: www.abanet.org/legalservices/helpreservists.

  • Support military legal assistance staffs if Guard and Reserve mobilization rises to the point where civilian attorneys are needed.

Civilian attorneys will be standing by once they are organized and educated, said Strong, who has practiced military law for 15 years.

Depending on the size of the call-up, civilian lawyers could help reservists in pre-deployment stages, help deployed service members' families and provide any required legal assistance to reservists upon their return home from active duty.

The need for supplementary legal resources was recognized about a decade ago, Strong noted, when some 260,000 reserve component members were called up for Gulf War duty.

"There were a lot of state and local bar associations that helped then, so the implication is they may be needed again," he said.

"We're nowhere near that now, but the ABA is getting ready just in case. Like the president said, this is a different sort of war," Strong noted.

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