Pro Bono Rank Firm
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Morgan, Lewis (12)


In November 2007 Morgan, Lewis & Bockius’s Pittsburgh managing partner, Marlee Myers, got an assignment like no other in her 32 years of transactional practice: representing an 83-year-old widow of a World War II veteran in her appeal of the Veterans Administration’s rejection of her husband’s death benefits.

The Am Law Pro Bono 100Myers had never written a brief. But with a son in the U.S. Navy and a late father who had served in World War II, she offered her services anyway. She was among the first to sign up when the firm, alongside the National Veterans Legal Services Program, began offering training for those interested in handling benefits appeals. And last August, her pro bono client, Mary Ann Humphrey, won the benefits appeal on the basis of brand-new arguments advanced by Myers. In September, Humphrey received a check for $65,000 and the promise of $11,000 a month for the rest of her life. “She got to keep her house,” says Myers.

Myers’s experience is just one of several concurrent efforts at Morgan, Lewis on behalf of veterans and servicemen and women. And she’s one of more than 100 firm lawyers who have been trained in handling the VA appeals process. Last year, the firm’s lawyers also helped put together a “how-to” guide for handling such appeals.

Separately, in an effort led by senior labor and employment partner James Kelley II, the firm also researched and drafted a major class action that could potentially help thousands of servicemen and women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The case, filed on December 15, alleges that soldiers terminated from Army duty as unfit due to PTSD have for years been shortchanged of benefits to which they were legally entitled. The government was expected to respond by June 20; the firm and NVLSP are planning on broadening the complaint to include other military service arms.

Ironically, for Kelley, life has come full circle. Kelley, a veteran of the Vietnam War who was drafted out of law school, says that in 1973, he was assigned to handle the process of declaring soldiers unfit for service. “And that’s what this case is all about,” he says. “But back then, PTSD was not even acknowledged.”

—Julie Triedman | July 1, 2009

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