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  • Maine attorney Nan Heald honored by ABA for helping military and veteran families with unmet legal needs

    Nan Heald, executive director for Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Maine since 1990 and member of the Legal Services Corporation’s Task Force on Pro Bono , will receive the American Bar Association Grassroots Advocacy Award April 15 for her leadership and initiatives addressing the unmet legal needs of active duty military members, veterans, their families, and caregivers.

    Heald has been an innovator in making legal services more accessible to underserved rural and native communities in her state. One example is the Pine Tree website, PTLA.org, which was the first legal aid website to offer self-help resources. Using lessons learned by the Pine Tree model, and with financial support from the Legal Services Corporation, she embarked on an ambitious project to provide an online self-help legal resource for U.S. military and veteran families, worldwide.  That website, StatesideLegal.org continues to serve as the most cited, comprehensive legal resource by law and policymakers and through projects like it.

    In 1985, Heald became Pine Tree’s executive director, where she continues to serve.  As director, Heald launched the state’s first and only children’s law project, expanded support for self-represented families, victims of domestic and sexual assault, and provided further support for those facing foreclosure, housing discrimination and other issues. Heald blazed an early trail in meeting legal needs of low-income and rural persons through technology, such as the launch in 1996 of www.ptla.org.  She was recognized as one of the inaugural Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America (2005) and selected as a MaineBiz “Woman to Watch” in 2010. She has also been honored for her work by the Maine Veterans Coordinating Committee, the Maine Judicial Branch, and the Maine Civil Liberties Union. In the fall of 2011 she was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change in recognition of her work to provide legal services to people who cannot afford to hire lawyers to represent them on civil matters.

     “The ABA has a proud tradition of support for military and veterans,” ABA President William C. Hubbard said. “Yet our own efficacy, and that of many others, has been advanced as a direct result of Nan’s work. She has been an innovator in making legal services more accessible to the underserved and we are proud to honor her.”

    Heald will receive the ABA Grassroots Advocacy Awards as part of the association's annual effort to connect policymakers with constituents in the legal profession. ABA Day 2015 brings distinguished lawyers from 50 states to Washington, D.C., to discuss issues such as funding for Legal Services Corporation, over-incarceration and juvenile justice reform.

    The other recipients of the 2015 ABA Grassroots Advocacy Award are John M. Rosenberg, founder and longtime director of the Appalachian Research and Defense Fund of Kentucky, Inc., and Patricia Apy, international and interstate family lawyer at Paras, Apy & Reiss, and liaison to the ABA Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Committee.

    With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.