The Antonin Scalia Law School Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (“M-VETS”) recently contributed to the ABA Law Student Division Before the Bar blog. The Before the Bar blog connects students to information on careers and topics within the legal field and spotlights projects that are going on at law schools. One of these areas, legal services for Veterans, is the special focus for the ABA Pro Bono week taking place from 23-29 OCT 2016. At the annual ABA meeting in August, ABA President Linda Klein launched a Veterans Legal Services Initiative focused on providing a major effort to mobilize lawyers on behalf of enhanced legal services for the nation’s veterans.
M-VETS Student-Advisors Rebecca Eubank and Michael West answered the call of President Klein through their enrollment in M-VETS and represented Scalia Law School and the M-VETS program by contributing an article to the Before the Bar blog detailing the M-VETS program, their experience as student-advisors in the M-VETS clinic and working directly with Veterans, Servicemembers and their dependents. Ms. Eubank states “the best part of taking part in a clinic is the practical experience you gain and the opportunity to work directly with Veterans, Servicemembers and their dependents. A clinic experience reflects life in a real law practice where you may or may not know much about a specific area of law before you’re assigned to a case. In a class, you might sit there for a semester pouring through property law and trying to commit as much of it as you can to memory. After assisting a veteran in one landlord tenant matter, you’ll probably remember the steps required for a landlord to evict a tenant much better when the bar exam rolls around.” Mr. West echoes this statement and adds “M-VETS gives us the opportunity to develop our law practice skills by providing us with a hands-on educational experience and the opportunity to gain real-world legal experience as if we worked in a real law firm. The director and staff attorney give us leeway in how we want to operate our clinic. The experience has been great thus far. The learning curve was steep at first, but once we were over the hump, it has become an extremely satisfying experience.”
The article highlights the fact that M-VETS is dedicated to the mission of providing active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and Veterans with free legal representation in matters of clear injustice or in which they could not retain legal counsel without undue hardship. As the first Veterans clinical program in the United States, M-VETS has served as the model for Veterans and military clinics in law schools across the country. Managing Attorney Leigh M. Winstead praised the ABA’s decision to highlight Veterans clinics and other pro bono veterans initiatives in celebration of Pro Bono Week. “Many of these clinics and initiatives began as a result of student-organized efforts to provide legal assistance to Veterans, Servicemembers and their families in a very nuanced and complex area of law unfamiliar to many practitioners and law students,” Winstead said. “Their hard work and incredible results should be highlighted and praised. It is important to spotlight the work being done in these clinics and organizations so we can educate the greater legal community about the continuing need for assistance in this area.”
The “How – and why – a law school veterans clinic works” written by Ms. Eubank and Mr. West can be read at http://abaforlawstudents.com/2016/10/25/how-and-why-a-law-school-veterans-clinic-works/