Back in first grade, when she was chosen as ringleader of the class circus, it was clear Nancy Morgan was a natural-born leader. “I wanted to be an inner-city schoolteacher,” recalls the Pennsylvania native. “Then, I married an army lieutenant and moved to Germany.”
Temporarily living in Europe wasn’t the only surprise in store for the Cornwall-on-Hudson resident; so was law school, which led Morgan to the almost 30-year career she loves as a litigator. As partner and director of legal operations at Newburgh-based Finkelstein & Partners — a company she first joined in 1987, before working at several corporations — she’s long tackled personal injury cases. But in 2007, Morgan developed an even deeper passion when a law changed, allowing veterans to appeal their denials for service-connected disabilities with the help of an attorney.
After watching her husband, who is 60 percent disabled, struggle with securing his own veteran benefits upon retirement, she became an ardent champion. “If he had such a hard time, how is a new vet from Iraq or Afghanistan supposed to navigate this,” she points out. She went down to Washington, DC in 2008 and immersed herself in eight, nine-hour days of training, which spawned the pro bono-fueled Veteran Services Group at Finkelstein & Partners. “We went from being a small practice with maybe 10 vets that first year to helping several hundred people win cases nationally,” she explains.
One such success involved a man who, back in 1966, was stationed in Korea. Despite serious medical conditions that developed as a result of exposure to chemicals, he was denied benefits. With the assistance of Morgan and her team, his decades-long fight culminated in a check for approximately $160,000.
As the director of the law firm’s Continuing Legal Education program, Morgan has recruited lawyers from across the Hudson Valley to become accredited in this burgeoning niche. “There are 800,000 veterans [in New York State],” she says. “Together, we can help them all.”