The American Bar Association will present its Grassroots Advocacy Award on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., to Nan Heald, executive director of Pine Tree Legal Assistance 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, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the ABA. One example is the Pine Tree website, PTLA.org, which was the first legal aid website in the country to offer self-help resources.
Using lessons learned from the PTLA model, and with financial support from the Legal Services Corp., Heald and her staff over the past few years completed a project to provide an online self-help legal resource for U.S. military and veteran families, worldwide, the release said. That website, StatesideLegal.org, continues to serve as the most cited, comprehensive legal resource by law and policymakers and through projects like it, according to the ABA.
“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 became Pine Tree’s executive director, where she continues to serve, in 1985. Under her direction, PTLA 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.
She was recognized as one of the inaugural Lawdragon 500 Leading Lawyers in America in 2005 and was 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.
Heald was honored at the White House in the fall of 2011 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 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 in Red Bank, N.J., and liaison to the ABA Legal Assistance for Military Personnel Committee.