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Why and How to Bring Veterans Into Your Firm

They've fought for the country, but can they fight for your law firm? Probably. There are more than 20 million veterans of the U.S. armed forces alive today, with experiences that stretch back as far as the Korean War or as recently as a fresh tour of Afghanistan.

A fair number of those vets go on to become lawyers, paralegals, or other legal professionals, and are capable of bringing their unique skills and experiences to bear on your firm.

More Than Just a Good Resume

It's not hard to make the case for hiring veterans. Someone who has made it through the military is likely to have the responsibility, maturity, and coping mechanisms that help make for successful legal professionals. If you think your firm is chaotic or stressful -- well, many vets have seen worse and know how to handle it.

And it's those characteristics that make for good hires. More and more firms are moving away from prestige- and experience-based hiring criteria and looking at the character-based traits that make for great legal professionals: resilience, responsibility, agility, etc.

Overcoming the Culture Gap

Finally, vets are great at understanding dense, jargon-filled language. Take "Black 6 this is Red 1. Class 1, 3 and 5 are now available at FARP Foxtrot, over," for example. There's not too much of a jump between that and, well, this relatively unintelligible gobbledygook:

In Mitchell v. Neff, jurisdiction of Neff was obtained by service of summons by publication. Pennoyer offered in evidence duly certified copies of the complaint, summons, order for publication of summons, affidavit of service by publication, and the judgment in that case, to the introduction of which papers the plaintiff objected because, 1, said judgment is in personam, and appears to have been given without the appearance of the defendant in the action or personal service of the summons upon him, and while he was a nonresident of the State, and is, therefore, void; 2, said judgment is not in rem, and therefore constitutes no basis of title in the defendant; 3, said copies of complaint, &c., do not show jurisdiction to give the judgment alleged, either in rem or personam; and, 4, it appears from said papers that no proof of service by publication was ever made, the affidavit thereof being made by the "editor" of the "Pacific Christian Advocate," and not by "the printer, or his foreman or principal clerk.

But there is a gap. That first sentence quoted above -- the military jargon, not the mess from Pennoyer v. Neff -- can also be responsible for a cultural gap that can make it difficult for vets to transition into civilian life, Derek Bennett writes in the Harvard Business Review.

There are programs designed to help veterans with that transition, but, Bennet writes, in-house approaches can also be helpful when bringing veterans into your organization:

To start, managers should take a hard look at their own onboarding programs and assess whether or not they're meeting the needs of veterans. If you have veterans working for you now, help them organize a veteran ERG; then have a candid conversation with them about what they wished that they had known when they started at your company, what made their transition difficult, and how long it took them to adjust and feel like they were creating value. The answers to these questions should form the outline for what your own in-house training program should incorporate.

It's a bit of work, but the benefits could be significant.

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