Legal Aid Foundation to Support Local Military Veterans

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) today announced that the law firm of Sidley Austin LLP will fund a three-year fellowship with LAFLA, through donations of $250,000 from the Sidley Austin Foundation and a number of the firm’s partners. This funding will support LAFLA’s Veterans Justice Center (VJC), the oldest legal services program for veterans in Los Angeles County. In addition to enhancing LAFLA’s ongoing commitment to providing direct representation of homeless and low-income veterans and their families, a unique feature of the “Sidley Fellowship” will be its focus on creating long-term, sustainable programs, which will expand the legal assistance available to veterans, including through increased pro bono involvement.

“Sidley has been a supporter of LAFLA for many years and we are proud to make this commitment to help benefit the veterans in our community,” said Michael Kelley, managing partner of Sidley’s Los Angeles office and member of the firm’s Executive Committee. “Sidley has always been a staunch supporter of veterans across the country, and this fellowship with LAFLA continues that tradition.”

Nicole Perez, staff attorney for the VJC, has been named the first “Sidley Fellow.” Ms. Perez has already helped transform the VJC into a “one-stop-shop” for military veterans and their families seeking civil legal services. As the Sidley Fellow, Ms. Perez will focus on expanding the work of the VJC through relationship-building and collaboration with its community partners. We also expect that Ms. Perez will work alongside pro bono lawyers at Sidley and other firms, who will have the opportunity to provide pro bono representation in litigation and transactional matters. A native of Los Angeles, Ms. Perez joined LAFLA as a fellow in 2007 after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law. In 2009, she transitioned to the VJC and since then has been working to expand the VJC’s legal services available to veterans. “At a time when organizations like LAFLA are facing an unprecedented need by veterans for legal services, the Sidley Fellowship provides me with the resources to continue to grow the VJC and the services we provide,” said Ms. Perez. “I have such great respect for Sidley. Its status in the Los Angeles community and its longstanding commitment to veterans’ initiatives nationwide make it an ideal partner to help improve the lives of homeless and low-income veterans.”

“With more than 300,000 military veterans in Los Angeles County, it is necessary for LAFLA to have strong community partners to ensure our veterans and their families receive critical legal services,”
 said Silvia Argueta, Executive Director of LAFLA. “Sidley has been a longtime, committed LAFLA partner and we are excited to come together to create the Sidley Fellowship to help VJC continue serving the brave men and women who served our country.”

The VJC, formerly known as the Bill Smith Homeless Veterans Project, provides advocacy and representation for low-income and homeless veterans and their families. It is also a leader in community education and has trained hundreds of pro bono lawyers, law and social work students, mental health and medical professionals and community members on veterans benefit advocacy.

About Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles: LAFLA is the frontline law firm for poor and low income people in Los Angeles County. Founded more than 80 years ago, LAFLA has six neighborhood offices, three Domestic Violence Clinics and four Self Help Legal Access Centers. LAFLA serves communities as diverse as East Los Angeles, the Westside, South Los Angeles, Pico-Union, Koreatown and Long Beach.  LAFLA is the first place thousands of people turn to when they need legal assistance for a crisis that threatens their shelter, health and livelihood.

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