Collaboration Cultivates Pro Bono Legal Clinic Programs to Ensure America’s Veterans Are Not Navigating the Legal System Alone

Puller Clinic Students

Law students are often veterans first line of defense at pro bono law school legal clinics across the U.S.
Attribution: David Morrill, The Puller Clinic

WAKEFIELD, Mass., USA – Nov. 11, 2016 – The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC), today, Veterans Day, announced that it has formally launched operations to foster best practices to pro bono veteran advocacy programs at law school legal clinics nationwide. The Consortium aims to establish a long-term collaborative relationship among member institutions to help advance positive systemic change for veteran legal advocacy services such as applying for disability benefits, addressing civil legal needs and assisting in Veteran Treatment Courts.

The NLSVCC founding members include the Lewis B. Puller, Jr. Veterans Benefits Clinic (“The Puller Clinic”) at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Va.; the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, Fla.; and the Veterans Legal Support Center and Clinic at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago, Ill.

“Veterans make up seven percent of the U.S. population, and research shows that legal support ranks as one of their highest unmet needs. We encourage law school veterans clinics to join the NLSVCC to share best practices and ideas for developing innovative training curricula that can ultimately be implemented in veterans law clinics across the country,” said Patricia Roberts, chair of the NLSVCC, director and clinical professor of law, The Puller Clinic. “In celebration of Veterans Day, veterans should know how very grateful we are for their service to our country. If you wore the uniform and need legal assistance, law school legal clinics can often be the best first step to obtaining justice, benefits or even a roof overhead.”

Veterans’ Unmet Legal Needs Continue to Grow

With 1.4 million veterans living below the poverty line and 50,000 veterans currently homeless, finding legal assistance in time to make a difference can seem impossible. A new study from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports that at least five out of the top 10 problems contributing to homelessness among the 6,000 veterans surveyed are unlikely to be solved without legal help. In addition, veterans suffering from service-connected disabilities seeking disability compensation from the VA face a complex claims process with crushing backlogs and wait times. Veterans appealing a denied disability claim must wait four to five years on average for a hearing, according to the VA.

Best Practices on Pro Bono Help for Veterans, Real-world Work Experiences for Law Students

The Consortium founding members have skilled clinicians and staff who have been trained to work specifically with veterans and their families, and law students. Member clinic lawyers and law students will be able to maximize their impact by working in partnership with other associations and non-profit groups to navigate the challenges being faced by veterans and service members.

“We’ve found that the veterans claim process is so complex, pro bono clinics immediately benefit from understanding where other programs have achieved successful outcomes for veterans,” Stacey-Rae Simcox, Esq., a board member and the director of the Veterans Advocacy Clinic at Stetson University College of Law. “In addition to serving veterans, we see the NLSVCC as an outstanding way for legal clinics to leverage curriculum best practices when training the next generation of lawyers.”

At the 2015 Second Annual National Conference on Law Clinics Serving Veterans in Washington D.C., dozens of law school veteran legal clinics identified that a consortium of legal clinics, legal professionals, and law students would be uniquely qualified to share best practices and explore synergies that aid veterans nationwide.

“Over the past few years, law school legal clinics have collaborated on amicus briefs, books, conferences, articles, and legislative priorities, among other activities,” said Brian Clauss, a board member, and director of the Veterans Legal Support Center at the John Marshall Law School. “The Consortium will continue to be a unifying force to share best practices and encourage the development of additional law school clinics. We also are actively seeking solutions to achieve long-term sustainability for the initiative.”

The Consortium is aided by the pro bono government relations services of Christopher DeLacy and Andrew Emerson of Holland & Knight LLP along with Douglas Dziak of Nixon Peabody LLP, each of whom has been providing countless pro bono hours in creating and advising the Consortium. Their efforts have already resulted in significant benefit to the members of the NLSVCC and the veterans they serve.

About The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium

The National Law School Veterans Clinic Consortium (NLSVCC) is a collaborative effort of the nation’s law school legal clinics dedicated to addressing the unique legal needs of U.S. military veterans on a pro bono basis. 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.


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