“This was a unique pro bono project where I developed a long-term relationship with a client and helped him through lots of different issues.”
About fifteen years ago, Adrianne Goins was walking down a hall in V&E’s Washington D.C. office when she ran into a partner who made a simple request.
“He said, ‘I just got a call from this guy. He’s a Marine Corps veteran. He runs a shelter in Houston. Would you call him back?’” Goins said.
Goins, then a junior associate, now a counsel at V&E, said yes — and so began a multi-year relationship with Sam Lewis, then the executive director of a Houston-based homeless shelter for veterans struggling with substance abuse called A New Life.
Over the next decade and a half, Goins and V&E would go on to provide legal and financial support for A New Life, from paying for a much-needed new roof to helping the shelter avoid foreclosure. Along the way, Goins would forge a friendship with Lewis that made the work that much more rewarding.
“He’s quite an inspiration,” said Goins, who focuses on international dispute resolution and arbitration. “He was very aware of the challenges that veterans face and had an unshakeable belief that he could get them back on their feet.”
Goins’ work on behalf of A New Life is part of V&E’s Veteran’s Initiative, a pro bono program that provides free legal services to veterans and servicemembers in need. Over the years, the firm has represented clients in a variety of military-related matters, including defending a Marine Corps officer in a 17-day trial in front of the first Marine Court of Inquiry in more than 50 years.
Goins, in particular, has strong personal ties to the military. She is married to a retired Army officer, Anthony Christino III, and her older daughter Martha Christino is a cadet in Air Force ROTC at Penn State.
Heeding the call
No sooner did Goins connect with Lewis than she got to work. The shelter, officially named Housing & Recovery Inc., was located in a modest house in Houston. The V&E team advised Lewis on financing options that would allow A New Life to purchase the house.
Meanwhile, V&E tax lawyer Glen Rosenbaum, now of counsel at the firm, assisted A New Life in obtaining a property tax exemption for nonprofits. Those moves yielded significant savings for the shelter. In another show of support for the shelter, V&E donated Thanksgiving dinner that year.
Several years later, the house had fallen into disrepair and needed a new roof. Around the same time, Goins had won an appeal in an unrelated pro bono case involving veterans’ benefits, and V&E was awarded legal fees.
“Instead of taking those fees, V&E turned around and gave them to A New Life to buy a new roof,” Goins said.
A friendship based on shared values and admiration
As the years passed, Goins remained in frequent contact with Lewis. She admired his energy and unwavering efforts to help veterans who had fallen on hard times. Enthusiastic and upbeat, Lewis would pepper his text and email messages with smiley faces and exclamation points.
The two bonded over their shared ties to the military. A Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, Lewis would tease Goins over her husband’s having served in the Army. He never failed to ask Goins about her younger daughter Ruthie, who was born around the time Goins began advising A New Life (she is now 14). He was delighted to hear that her older daughter planned to join the Air Force and asked how her Army father was dealing with that choice.
Several years ago, Lewis’ health started to decline, and he once again sought V&E’s help. He found himself unable to keep up with the mortgage and other bills. Goins was able to resolve a payment dispute with the mortgage lender and she convinced the lender to waive late fees that had been assessed against the shelter.
When it became apparent that A New Life could no longer remain in operation, Lewis and another board member turned to V&E again. Rosenbaum and Goins developed a strategy for winding up the corporation and guided the board through the process. Once again, Goins resolved a dispute with the house’s mortgage lender, this time helping A New Life avoid foreclosure. This past summer, V&E completed its last work for A New Life.
Looking back, Goins said she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to represent Lewis and the shelter.
“This was a unique pro bono project where I developed a long-term relationship with a client and helped him through lots of different issues,” she said. “I’m glad that I was able to help him and this wonderful cause.”