Donna E. Morgan
Donna E. Morgan

A group of Mayer, Brown LLP lawyers has helped severely wounded U.S. military veterans gain access to custom-built homes that make living with their conditions easier.

A dozen of the firm’s lawyers in its Chicago, Los Angeles and New York offices work on the pro bono project.

Donna E. Morgan, a Mayer, Brown partner who concentrates on trusts and estates, handles trusts related to the veterans’ custom-made homes.

Mayer, Brown lawyers also provide legal advice, counseling and documentation relating to the veteran’s home ownership and real estate rights.

“It’s the most rewarding pro bono project I have ever worked on,” said Morgan, who has been involved in at least 20 such projects. “It’s such a good cause because these veterans have given up so much for all of us. The ones I’ve met said they would do it over again.”

The firm’s lawyers got involved in the pro bono work about two years ago through Carrington Charitable Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Carrington Mortgage Services LLC, a fee-paying client of Mayer, Brown.

The foundation works with actor Gary Sinise’s foundation to build so-called smart homes for wounded veterans. Many of the veterans have had both legs amputated, and some have also lost an arm.

The custom homes, which cost at least $500,000 to build, allow veterans to lock doors and turn off lights with tablets. The doorways and hallways are built to allow wheelchair accessibility and mobility.

Mayer, Brown lawyers have spent more than 400 pro bono hours working on the veteran homes project with the Carrington Foundation, said Marc R. Kadish, the firm’s director of pro bono activities.

Kadish said he was particularly moved by watching legless wounded veterans hoist themselves unassisted onto buses to attend meetings related to the Carrington Foundation.

“It really brought home to me what their daily lives must be like,” Kadish said.

Other Chicago-based Mayer, Brown lawyers working on the project include partners Thomas S. Kiriakos and Jon D. Van Gorp, counsel Susannah L. Schmid and associates Haukur Gudmundsson and Joanna C. Nicholas.

The most recent home was completed last month in Maine. It was built for Travis Mills — an Army staff sergeant who did three tours of duty in Afghanistan — his wife and their young daughter.

While on patrol during his third tour in 2012, Mills was severely injured by an improvised explosive device. He lost parts of both legs and arms.

Other homes were built for wounded veterans in North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Officials with the Carrington and Sinise foundations hope that eventually hundreds of smart homes will get built for wounded veterans, Kadish said.