Who Handles Cases for Lawyers on Military Leave?

ComputerThe Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA), passed in 1994, recognizes that military service can disrupt careers of the military members and burden their families, communities, employers, and coworkers. The Act aims to ease that burden by prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of military service, and by requiring prompt reemployment of employees returning from military service. An employee called to serve in the National Guard and Reserve is considered to be on an unpaid leave of absence; after service, they have a right to be reemployed in the position they would have attained if they had not been called up.

USERRA applies to all public and private employers in the United States, including very small employers not covered by other federal anti-discrimination statutes. The loss of a key employee for several months to a year can be difficult for smaller businesses. And service members may get only a few weeks’ notice before duty, making it challenging for employers to fill their shoes.

Not surprisingly, sole practitioners and lawyers in small firms are among those called up to serve in the military. How do they manage? Attorney Mark Sullivan, writing in the ABA’s GPSOLO magazine, advises sole practitioners to prepare a mobilization plan, similar to a law office emergency plan, for their practice. A sole practitioner may need to find successor counsel, or may want to consider winding up the practice if time permits. Lawyers at larger firms may be able to give cases to partners and associates.

Freelance attorneys can also help lawyers who are called up to serve and their employers manage a leave of absence. Available on short notice, a freelance attorney can assist coworkers who have taken on files and coordinate communications to be sure that projects are being handled effectively. The firm can manage workload, meet commitments to clients, avoid having to hire in a hurry, and be ready to reemploy the soldier when they return.

The Minnesota Freelance Attorney Network thanks those who serve in the military and their families for their service and sacrifice, and encourages all attorneys to participate in the American Bar Association’s efforts to provide pro bono service to military families.

Karin has been a litigator at Debevoise & Plimpton; a law clerk to three Minnesota federal judges; a legal writing teacher at NYU Law, William Mitchell College of Law, and the University of Minnesota Law School; and a sole practitioner and freelancer in Minnesota… MFAN Bio | Email | Web | LinkedIn | Google Plus | MFAN Posts

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