The NLSVCC welcomed U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, MD; VA General Counsel Byrne; CAVC Judges Davis and Allen, esteemed panelists and speakers, including scholars from national university legal advocacy programs, and veterans advocates from around the nation
WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 5, 2018 – The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (Law Schools for Vets) held its first veterans law conference on February 28 and March 1. The conference was designed to promote best practices in pro bono veteran advocacy throughout nationwide law school legal clinics and other veterans legal providers.
Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin and Veterans Affairs General Counsel James Byrne spoke on the first day of the event, highlighting the continued importance of these law school legal programs and their role in improving veterans’ outcomes. During his remarks, Secretary Shulkin announced that the National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium was officially recognized as the nation’s 93rd Veterans Service Organization (VSO).
Former Representative Jeff Miller, who chaired the U.S. House of Representative’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee from 2011-2017 and now a Senior Legislative Advisor with McDermott Will & Emery, introduced Secretary Shulkin, welcoming him and the participants to his firm’s Washington D.C. office.
“We were excited to welcome over 120 participants to this year’s conference. It is the first of what we hope are many future Law Schools for Vets conferences to discuss veterans issues in the legal and VA systems,” Ann Vessels, Conference Chair and Director of the Veterans Advocacy Project at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said. “We are especially grateful to VA Secretary Shulkin, VA General Counsel Byrne, and Judges Davis and Allen for taking time to address our group and share insights on our unified mission of helping veterans obtain the services and benefits they have earned.”
In addition to recognizing the group’s VSO status, Secretary Shulkin and General Counsel Byrne discussed the importance and need for legal services among veterans. Secretary Shulkin noted, “when you look at the top 10 needs of veterans, legal is there.”
“We are especially honored and excited that Secretary Shulkin has designated our group as a VSO,” Ed Olsen, M.D., J.D., Professor, University of Miami, said. “With this recognition comes even greater responsibility from our group to assist veterans and we look forward to rising to this challenge.”
Speaker presentations included seminars on improving overall clinic design, ongoing and upcoming VA reforms, assisting veterans with specific issues such as addiction, and working with Congressional offices. Conference attendees joined interactive breakout sessions on advocating for clients with PTSD, providing domestic violence legal aid, representation in military discharge upgrade cases, and how clinics can best work with private practitioners.
Supporting Veterans with Ongoing Legal Assistance
Securing reliable representation for veterans’ legal issues presents some of the most complicated issues facing veterans today. For example, disability compensation claims constitute a complex process with significant regulatory and factual issues. By providing pro bono representation, Law Schools for Vets clinics offer coverage for veterans’ claims and other critical legal services. As several presenters noted, obtaining legal services can be a lifeline to veterans and their families.
Training Next Generation Lawyers Who Continue to Assist Veterans
Acquiring legal assistance is a well-known barrier within the veteran community, with many servicemen and women unable to find dependable, affordable representation. Yelena Duterte, Director of Syracuse University College of Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic, noted, “clinicians and staff members from the Consortium’s members recognize this gap in the demand for veteran access to legal services and work tirelessly with veterans and their families to improve their outcomes.” Professor Duterte went on to note, “training law students to become engaged as veterans advocates during their law school years means more lawyers are gaining valuable experience and are better equipped to represent veterans after they leave law school and join firms, many of which also offer pro bono veterans legal services.”
“The advantage to pro bono clinics collaborating is immense. Clinics learn about successful strategies employed by other law school programs, share best practices, and collaborate with other clinicians on legal and practical issues,” said Stacey-Rae Simcox, Consortium board member and Director of the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at the Stetson University College of Law. “Law Schools for Vets provides professors and students with tools and training that individual clinics could not provide on their own. We’re proud of our initiatives to help law students serve veterans throughout their law school matriculation and beyond graduation.”
“Legal clinics have secured a critical position on law school campuses, cementing student opportunities to practice law before graduation and gain hands-on client experience,” said Brian Clauss, a board member and Director of the Veterans Legal Support Center at the John Marshall Law School. “This conference is instrumental in veterans issues collaboration by unifying clinics and their most effective practices.”
At the 2018 National Conference on Law Clinics Serving Veterans, participants included law school veteran legal clinic professors and students, non-profit veterans advocates, private firm attorneys, and other stakeholders working to address the enormous challenges in providing veteran services and advocacy.
Law Schools for Vets gratefully acknowledges the pro bono contributions of McDermott Will & Emery, as well as the efforts of Douglas Dziak, Christopher DeLacy, Andrew Emerson, and Dimitri Karakitsos of Holland & Knight LLP, which has provided countless pro bono hours in helping to establish and advise the Law Schools for Vets clinics.
Law Schools for Vets is also grateful to our conference sponsors, including the National Veterans Legal Services Program, the Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program, Seyfarth & Shaw, Skadden, the Clinical Legal Education Association, Attorney Sean Kendall, LexisNexis, NOVA, Prevail, Hill & Pontoon, and Clio. The contributions and efforts of contributors have already resulted in significant benefit to members of the Law Schools for Vets and, most importantly, the veterans they serve.
About The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium
The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (Law Schools for Vets) is a collaborative effort of the nation’s law school legal clinics dedicated to addressing the unique needs of U.S. military veterans on a pro bono basis while educating future attorneys.
The Consortium’s mission is, working with like-minded stakeholders, to gain support and advance common interests with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Congress, state and local veterans service organizations, court systems, educators and all other entities for the benefit of veterans throughout the country. For more information, visit http://nlsvcc.org.
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