Military Appreciation Month at Legal Aid
Jeremy Mitchell is a Legal Aid of WV ATLAS Attorney, where he works directly with our intake staff to provide advocacy services, including advice and information, to clients who apply for help from LAWV. He is also in the WV Army National Guard, and because May is Military Appreciation Month, we are featuring one of our own staffers who is active in service.
What does the phrase “Justice for all” mean to you, and why is it important?
The phrase “Justice for all,” to me, means the opportunity to be heard. While the outcome may not be favorable, simply having the chance to assert ones claims or arguments is paramount to assisting those who otherwise may not have the ability to do so. And that’s exactly where I take pride in Legal Aid’s efforts- stepping in the position to assist individuals in civil matters wherein there is no default right to legal representation.
How has Legal Aid changed your life, or your career?
I came to Legal Aid fresh out of law school. I was eager to take on the world and help those I could. I wanted a vast array of experience across multiple legal areas while also being able to give back to the State and community I cherish. Legal Aid has unequivocally provided these opportunities by way of trainings, mentorship, and of course, hands on experience with a variety of cases. I was not “cornered” into one are of the law- which has proved exciting and sometimes challenging as a younger attorney. However, there has not ever been any time during my career at Legal Aid in which I felt I was unable or unwelcomed to call upon others for advice and assistance. Teamwork and the unified goal of assisting West Virginia’s most vulnerable set Legal Aid of West Virginia apart.
How has Legal Aid impacted West Virginia and West Virginians?
Without question, Legal Aid has positively impacted West Virginia. I’ve seen it firsthand with clients I have assisted, even if the assistance is limited to preparing clients for hearings or advising on applicable law. Frequently I see, and encounter myself, instances where clients simply armed with better understanding of their options or rights proves beneficial. Comparatively, there is genuine concern at the thought of the alternative wherein prospective clients do not have access to such a firm able to consistently provide access to legal aid services. I truly could not say enough kind words about Legal Aid of West Virginia. I strongly feel the work done here by the incredible staff across the state is a noble pursuit that must continue.
Tell us a bit about your military service and how it impacts your career.
I am a First Lieutenant (1LT) Judge Advocate (JA) with the West Virginia Army National Guard.
One of the army core values is selfless service. I find this core value relates both to military service for this state and country as well as legal service for vulnerable and often underrepresented West Virginians whom Legal Aid assists. I joined for similar reasons to joining Legal Aid of West Virginia—to give back to the local community and help as I can. My legal education and experience offer an avenue for selfless service both with Legal Aid of West Virginia and the West Virginia Army National Guard, particularly at a time where both institutions are tragically understaffed.
There is a massive shortage or attorneys, or Judge Advocates, across the army, specifically within the States’ national guard units. For example, there is only one full time Judge Advocate for the West Virginia National Guard that handles courts-martial or trying of cases in violation of the West Virginia Code of Military Justice (rules and laws specific for servicemembers). This is also indicative of the understaffed Judge Advocate position within the army as a whole, but more specifically, for the West Virginia National Guard. Similarly, many West Virginians find themselves in the unfortunate position of needing legal assistance while not being able to afford representation.
Any Legal Aid employee would explain that this is not a job taken for financial motivations. Rather, selfless service is illustrated daily by the hard-working team that makes up Legal Aid of West Virginia. I have been very fortunate to be a part of this team and consistently find myself proud of Legal Aid’s accomplishments.