Minnesota National Guard
Lyndsey Olson understands that while the legal challenges faced by service members are much the same as those faced by civilians, the circumstances and consequences of those challenges can be vastly different.
Olson, who’s been a JAG since 2004 and deputy general counsel since 2010, goes beyond the call of duty in providing legal resources for service members because she knows that being away from one’s family and job because of a deployment can cause legal issues to become magnified.
“That’s where a lot of what we do comes in,” Olson said. “Even an extremely experienced family law practitioner can take on a military client and have no idea of what the specific laws are that apply to a dissolution action if they’ve never dealt with a military client.”
Last year Olson stepped up her efforts to make sure service clients got an extra measure of the representation they need. She acted as representative for a class action against Citibank for violations of the Servicemembers’ Civil Relief Act, a case that was settled in August for $2.3 million.
The common thread in much of Olson’s work has been to act as a liaison between the Guard and civilian lawyers who want to pitch in.
“As I started reaching out to civilian legal community, a lot of people said ‘I want to help service members, just don’t know how,’ ” said Olson. “People wanted to make that connection so service members can get the best legal service.”
Olson also worked with the University of Minnesota’s Business Law Clinic to create
VetBiz, a program that will provide pro bono help to service members on legal issues outside the scope of JAG Corps’ legal assistance.
“It’s a high hurdle, coming off a federal salary without the money to hire attorney to get business documents together,” said Olson. “Great opportunity to unite the legal community to help with business plans and other services.”