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The Good We Do: Benjamin Pomerance

When Benjamin Pomerance attended an orientation for new students at Albany Law School, he noticed the Albany Stratton VA (Veterans Affairs) Medical center across the street on Holland Avenue.

He wondered if Albany Law had a program to help veterans and found that no such program existed.

His parents half-jokingly told him, "You should start one." So he did.

Pomerance founded and leads the Veterans Pro Bono Project at Albany Law School as a tribute to his uncle, Robert Nydam, a former Marine and Otsego County Judge who died in 1997.

He has donated more than 300 hours of pro bono services to the project while maintaining an A grade point average.

"There is a definite need for legal help for veterans," said Pomerance, now a third-year law student.

Fearing an empty room for the first meeting, he was astonished when 17 students showed up. All of the students, whom he described as "extremely dedicated and hard-working," continue to volunteer and provide new ideas.

He has organized a three-hour continuing legal education program on unmet legal needs facing homeless military veterans. It attracted a standing-room only crowd.

"This is a tremendous problem statewide and nationwide," said Pomerance. "There are far too many jobless and homeless veterans who cannot access their benefits."

He and other volunteers assist at a monthly Wills for Heroes pro bono program at the Albany Housing Coalition's Veteran's House. The program is a collaborative effort between the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, the Albany County Bar Association and the firm of Hiscock & Barclay. They assist pro bono attorneys and draft wills for review by a Hiscock & Barclay attorney.

Pomerance also implemented a new free legal clinic for veterans at the Albany Law School in February 2012. Student volunteers do an intake over the phone, then work with attorneys for a 30-60 minute consultation.

Eighty-seven veterans, from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan, attended the first two clinics held in the spring.

Seeing the impact that the project has on veterans is particularly important to Pomerance.

"All veterans come with unique needs. Every single veteran has been very moved by the force of law students and lawyers who care about them and want them to get back on their feet," said Pomerance.

At a spring clinic, a Korean War veteran with a complicated benefits plan told Pomerance, "I never knew how many people of all ages truly care about us."

Pomerance received the President's Pro Bono Service for a Law Student in 2012.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 30, 2012 3:45 PM.

The previous post in this blog was The Good We Do: Lucien A. Morin II.

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