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Legal Assistance for Military Personnel

What is LAMP?

Military service often affects a service member’s ability to obtain legal counsel or representation for these matters. One of the biggest hindrances for these service members is the expense of private legal representation. After September 11, 2001, the ABA urged state bar organizations to take steps to provide reduced fee or free legal services to military personnel who were facing deployment/activation. The South Carolina Bar responded by creating Legal Assistance for Military Personnel (LAMP) in 2001 as an effort to meet this need by pairing qualifying military personnel with volunteer lawyers. Nine years later, the need for legal services in the military community remains high. The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program is now reviving the program and recruiting a fresh force of volunteer attorneys.

The South Carolina Bar’s (LAMP) program seeks to provide free or reduced fee legal services to active military personnel who are stationed in South Carolina or whose case is related to South Carolina in some way. Military service frequently places service members in unique and difficult legal situations. While active duty military personnel can obtain certain legal services for free from military lawyers, due to the limited resources of these departments many legal needs of service members are unmet. For example: a service member may need help getting out of a residential lease when he is called up for active duty; a service member may need to be present at a court hearing but is instead across the country or in another part of the world; a service member could need information about how a civil or criminal judgment against him could affect his military service, etc.  

LAMP seeks to recruit volunteer attorneys who practice in several different areas of law including: Wills/Trusts, Powers of Attorney, Landlord/Tenant, Family, Employment, Probate, Guardianship/Adoption, Military, and Consumer. LAMP is an important and effective way for South Carolina’s legal community to serve those who willingly sacrifice so much for our country.

SERVICE MEMBERS

Please note that this program serves active military personnel and in some circumstances their immediate dependent family members. If you are not active duty military, please review our pro bono and Find a Lawyer resources.

Active duty service members and their families (when the dependent family member’s interest aligns with that of the service member) may apply for LAMP by completing the LAMP intake form available here and mailing/faxing it to the South Carolina Bar (address and number provided on form). Active duty service members at pay grades E-3 and below will be presumed eligible for free legal services. Active duty service members at pay grades E-4 and above may be eligible for reduced fee legal service at the lawyer’s discretion. LAMP will only be offering services that are not available to service members free of charge from the military. Dependent family members of service members may apply for legal services, but only when the family member’s interests align with those of the service member.  Once returned, your application will be reviewed and LAMP will begin the process of matching you with a volunteer attorney.

ATTORNEYS

How to get involved with LAMP
Begin by filling out and returning the LAMP Volunteer Information form. After your information has been received, LAMP will begin the process of matching you with service members based on your availability/practice area and the needs of service members.  

Why get involved with LAMP?
America’s military personnel sacrifice their personal freedoms and safety in the course of performing their duty. As benefactors of this great service, members of the South Carolina Bar have an opportunity to directly give back to these brave men and women. The success of the LAMP program depends entirely on the willingness of private attorneys to dedicate their time and special skills to this important cause. 

LAMP Parameters

Eligibility

  • Active service members of every branch of the military (including the reserves and guard) who are at pay grades E-3 and below are presumed eligible for Pro Bono LAMP services.
  • Active service members who are at pay grades E-4 and above may qualify for reduced fees, depending on the nature of their case.
  • Dependent family members of service members are also eligible, provided that the family member’s interests align with those of the service member (explained below).
  • Applicants will be screened to determine eligibility.
  • Who is E-3?

GRADE

NAVY/COAST GUARD

ARMY

MARINES

AIR FORCE

E-1

Seaman Recruit

Private (PVT)

Private

Basic Airman

E-2

Seaman Apprentice

Private (PV2)

Private First Class

Airman

E-3

Seaman

Private First Class

Lance Corporal

Airman First Class

E-4

3rd Class Petty Officer

Corporal/Specialist

Corporal

Senior Airman

E-5

2nd Class Petty Officer

Sergeant

Sergeant

Staff Sergeant

Available Services

LAMP seeks to provide a wide range of legal services to eligible military personnel. However, LAMP volunteer attorneys will not provide military personnel with legal services that are readily available to them at no cost from military lawyers/JAGC. This policy will allow LAMP volunteer attorneys to focus their efforts on providing legal services which would ordinarily be either extremely difficult to retain or entirely out of the grasp of the service member. Unfortunately, LAMP cannot ensure legal assistance to all eligible service members. While a service member may be eligible for LAMP services, he or she may not be accepted due to the lack of an available volunteer attorney.

LAMP will be available to dependent family members of an active duty service member when the family member’s interests align with that of the service member. For example, assistance will not be offered to spouses of service members who wish to initiate divorce proceedings or seek changes in child support or custody. Nor will assistance be offered in the landlord/tenant context when the service member is the landlord. Similarly, assistance will not be available in the business or corporate context when the service member is the owner of the business. This policy insures that the program’s limited resources are directed at those with the most need.

RESOURCES FOR LAMP VOLUNTEER ATTORNEYS

The Service Member’s Civil Relief Act (SCRA)
In 2003, President Bush signed into law the Service Members Civil Relief Act. The SCRA was a complete revision of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Civil Relief Act (SSCRA). The SCRA contains provisions that provide special legal protections for active duty service members (and their dependents). These protections apply to many areas of law, including real property, family law, tax law, and criminal/civil procedure. LAMP volunteer attorneys need to be aware of the special protections and regulations provided by the SCRA in order to provide competent legal representation to their service member client. 

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
The USERRA establishes many employment protections and rights for service members.  Below is a link to a website with helpful answers about this legislation.
USERRA FAQs

Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
Every military member is entitled to life insurance known as SGLI. Below are websites explaining some of the parameters of the coverage:
Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI)
Family Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (FSGLI)

The ABA Standing LAMP Committee
The ABA initiated the push to provide free/reduced fee legal services to military personnel and provides several resources for attorneys engaged in such representation.
http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lamp/
http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lamp/resources.html
http://www.abanet.org/legalservices/lamp/clematerials.html

Other Resources
The SCRA and the USERRA are not the only legislation that affects the legal rights of service members. For example, a service member’s conviction for CDV can mean a loss of their clearance as a government employee. Listed are several websites that provide more information on the particular legal needs/rights of military personnel.

http://legalassistance.law.af.mil/content/afla.php?view=faqs

http://www.military.com/benefits/military-legal-matters

http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/military-legal-resources-home.html

Links to the JAG websites of the Armed Forces


http://www.jag.navy.mil/legal_services/nlso/nlso_southeast.htm

http://www.goarmy.com/jag.html

http://www.marines.mil/unit/judgeadvocate/Pages/Home/SJA_to_the_CMC.aspx

http://www.afjag.af.mil/

http://www.uscg.mil/legal/