Addressing the needs of veterans facing homelessness and mental health issues, Sikorsky’s Legal Department and Teamsters Local 1150 have developed a sustained and unique partnership with Connecticut Veterans Legal Center (CVLC) to support CVLC’s pro bono legal work and advocate for the increased recognition of veterans’ unmet legal and social service needs in Connecticut.
In 2009, Sikorsky was among the first pro bono partners to support CVLC’s groundbreaking medical-legal partnership to integrate legal services on-site at Veterans Administration (VA) mental health facilities. Recognizing the importance of this holistic model in helping veterans stabilize their lives, Sikorsky attorneys took extra measures to provide pro bono legal assistance in the early days of the program, often traveling a long distance to meet with veterans who were receiving medical care at the VA. To date, dozens of Sikorsky volunteers have addressed a variety of veterans’ needs, including eviction defense and securing pardons to overcome barriers to affordable housing and employment.
CVLC developed a pro bono Service Pledge Program to further engage Sikorsky’s legal department in helping veterans access their VA benefits. The Program educates and trains attorneys about VA benefits law and encourages deeper engagement with clients. The Program’s success at Sikorsky led CVLC to replicate it in other legal departments and law firms to expand its pro bono efforts.
Sikorsky’s enthusiasm and level of commitment to veterans has been critical in allowing CVLC to grow their services and leverage pro bono and volunteer partnerships. To increase awareness and volunteer engagement, Sikorsky’s Legal Department collaborated with Teamsters Local 1150 to institute the annual “Homerun for Heroes” program, which honors and recognizes military veterans at a minor league baseball game. The event shines a statewide spotlight on veterans’ legal issues and raises funds to support veteran-related programs throughout Connecticut, including CVLC’s legal services and pro bono program. Sikorsky and Teamsters Local 1150 have donated more than 200 hours of their time to organize and plan the annual event. Additionally, Sikorsky and Teamsters Local 1150 have volunteered their time to fundraise on behalf of Connecticut nonprofits providing vital services to veterans, including Columbus House-Harkness House, Connecticut Fallen Heroes, Homes for the Brave – Female Soldiers: Forgotten Heroes, and CVLC.
Sikorsky’s partnership with CVLC and Teamsters Local 1150 exemplifies the unique and innovative ways in which a legal department with its partners have reimagined their pro bono program in responding to the emerging needs and challenges of supporting a vulnerable population.
About the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award
Corporate Pro Bono (CPBO), a project of Pro Bono Institute, created the CPBO Pro Bono Partner Award to recognize innovative pro bono collaborations of in-house legal departments with law firms and public interest organizations. Pro bono partnerships that include at least one in-house legal department with one or more law firms and/or public interest organizations are eligible. The CPBO Advisory Board selects the award recipients.
The award honors legal departments and the organizations with which they partner in the provision of legal services to those in need. The award recipients are departments, law firms, and public interest organizations that have demonstrated an impact in their community through their partnership project, shown substantial involvement in the project by in-house lawyers, made tangible steps toward sustaining the relationship among the partners, developed innovative substantive or structural approaches in support of the partnership’s effort, and addressed a critical legal need or assisted a particularly vulnerable community or target population.
Over the years, the impact and innovation of the projects supported by the award recipients have been tremendously important both in the projects’ ability to address the legal needs of the communities being served and in the role the partnerships have played in supporting and furthering pro bono work, especially within the in-house community. Through these partnerships, legal departments, law firms, and public interest organizations have devised programs that contribute to the legal profession’s efforts to close the justice gap and that create strong legacies of effective pro bono service.