BY: Andrew J. Wolf

On February 2, 2013, several student representatives from the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic travelled to Portsmouth, where they volunteered with Habitat for Humanity. Habitat of South Hampton Roads has a special program called Habitat for Heroes, where all of their projects benefit veterans.

Our project began with a small house. We worked to gut the inside of the existing structure and to build a three-bedroom addition onto the back of the house. Once we arrived, we set to work building the beginning of the frame on the back of the house. After a few lessons on how to use a nail gun and a miter saw, we began to attach the frame to the concrete blocks and build what would support the floor of the addition. The Habitat employees and volunteers were tremendously helpful and accomplished a difficult task: teaching law students to measure accurately and accomplish a task that involved neither a computer nor a stack of paper.

Volunteering for Habitat for Heroes taught me several lessons about being an attorney, lessons I might not have learned if it were not for the Veterans Benefits Clinic. First, clients always have concerns outside the legal matter about which they seek an attorney. Current conflict veterans may be concerned about getting a civilian job or otherwise providing for their family, for example. Providing quality legal services to a client is vital, although it may only relieve some of a client’s concerns. Second, even when you have hours to meet and demanding clients, it is important to volunteer some of your time. Volunteering could mean taking on clients pro bono or reserving time to work on projects like Habitat for Humanity. Volunteer projects not only give you a personal sense of accomplishment, but also show that your organization cares about the community it serves.

The Veterans Benefits Clinic is about helping our clients obtain the benefits to which they are legally entitled, but the Clinic also recognizes that veterans returning from service may need more than legal benefits. Volunteering for Habit has been one of many clinic experiences that have taught me what it means to be an attorney that cares, and that lesson will stay with me throughout my practice.

 

For more information on Habitat for Heroes of South Hampton Roads, see their website at http://shrhabitat.org/habitatforheroes.php.

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