Every October, the American Bar Association creates an annual national spotlight on pro bono through their Celebrate Pro Bono campaign. Justice for Military Families is part of the national pro bono community; we provide pro bono legal services to the families of fallen servicemembers through our partnership with the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS).
This week, we are featuring the stories of our pro bono volunteers and the work they have been doing for the families of fallen servicemembers through our TAPS partnership.
By Jill K. Soubel, Esq.
As an attorney spouse of an Air National Guard Reservist, I do not often identify as strongly as military as many of my colleagues in Military Spouse JD Network. While deployments are a bi-yearly reality for my family, I have not had to take multiple bar exams or continually look for a new job. When I saw a posting about a TAPS pro bono referral in Philadelphia, I really wanted to step up and help out our extended military family.
The only problem was that this was a landlord/tenant dispute and I practice immigration. The TAPS client, the mother of a Marine who died while on active duty, is opening a business in honor of her fallen Marine. She invested a considerable amount of time, money, and love into renovating the business premises for the intended purpose, falling behind on the rent in the meantime. The landlord was seeking eviction just when the business had secured all the necessary licensing to open.
Determined to help, I reached out to my attorney network in Philly and found a mentor to walk me through the landlord/tenant court procedures. I met with the client, who was not only a lovely, honest woman but also organized. She arrived at my office with a can-do attitude and a big box of receipts. After our meeting, she went home to put together her exhibits while I meditated on our arguments and tried to summon my litigation chops, now dormant for almost eight years.
The morning of the hearing, my client arrived on time with a glorious Excel spreadsheet and numbered exhibits. I could not have wanted more. We entered pre-hearing mediation with the landlord, and they were able to work out a good solution to keep her in the building and the landlord to benefit as well. The hard-of-hearing, octogenarian mediator may well have had a hand in frustrating the landlord to the point of wanting to work things out!
With the complaint withdrawn, both parties left feeling positively about their agreement. Overall, I had one of my favorite experiences as an attorney: feeling as though the preparation with the client made my interference nearly unnecessary.
In the end, I am so glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to help a military family, and now am proud to say that I have the smallest of hands in a valiant Marine’s legacy. Semper fi.