The Mason Veterans and Servicemembers Legal Clinic (M-VETS) was formally established in 2004 in response to legal needs of deployed servicemembers after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. The clinic’s dual mission is to provide law students with hands-on, practical legal experience while assisting active-duty members of the armed forces, their families and veterans with free legal representation in matters of clear injustice or where retaining counsel would cause an undue hardship. The clinic is the nation’s oldest veterans clinic and provides the most comprehensive services of any veterans legal clinic in the country. George Mason University has been recognized as a military-friendly school by GIJobs.com and has an entire office devoted to assisting veterans and active-duty service members making a successful transition into the Mason community and university life. M-VETS is part of George Mason University’s larger dedication to serving the military community.
Since its inception, M-VETS has served over 250 clients and provided the equivalent of over $3.3 million in pro bono legal services. Many of the over 150 M-VETS Student Advisors and other Scalia Law Alumni have served in our armed forces, including the JAG Corps of various military branches, while others have established careers with the Board of Veterans Appeals, Department of Defense and other Government agencies. We spotlight several of these Scalia Law graduates, their career paths, and advice for aspiring attorneys.
The Honorable Penney Azcarate (Scalia Law ’98)
Judge Penney Azcarate is a Circuit Court Judge in Fairfax County, Virginia and a 1998 Scalia Law graduate with a long history of public service. After enrolling in the ROTC program at Old Dominion University, Judge Azcarate served four years active duty with the United States Marine Corps and several more in the reserves while attending law school. After graduating from George Mason, she became an assistant Commonwealth Attorney for five years before entering private practice. In 2008, Judge Azcarate was elected by the General Assembly to serve on the General District Court Bench where she became the first female Chief Judge. In 2015, Judge Azcarate was elevated to the Fairfax County Circuit Court. Read more.
Army BG Joseph B. Berger III (Scalia Law ’98)
Brigadier General Joseph Berger is a 1998 alumnus of Scalia Law after being selected for the Army Funded Legal Education Program. Prior to law school, Brigadier General Berger graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and was commissioned into the Military Police Corps where he served as a Platoon Leader, Company Executive Officer, and Battalion Supply Officer and Adjutant. After earning his J.D. from George Mason, he transferred to the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Read more.
Judge Ryan T. Kessel (Scalia Law ’01)
Judge Ryan Kessel is an Administrative Law Judge for the Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”). Earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia in 1998 and his J.D. from Scalia Law in 2001, Judge Kessel started his career at the BVA as an entry level counsel in 2005 after several years in private practice. In 2014, he was selected to be a Veteran’s Law Judge by the Secretary of the VA. In his role at the BVA, Judge Kessel conducts hearings and decides appeals primarily in the area of veterans benefits claims. Read more.
Col Drew Krog (Scalia Law ’96)
Col Drew Krog is an Individual Mobilization Augmentee (“IMA”) assigned to the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate in the Air Forces Reserves. When on active duty orders, Col Krog fills in for the Staff Judge Advocate in the 25th Air Force, providing advice and legal support to a two-star general. When he is not on active orders, Col Krog coordinates information and leadership in the reserve chain and manages information and administrative management of all IMAs in the 25th Air Force. Read more.
Commander (Ret) Coley “Rick” Myers, III (Scalia Law ’16)
Commander (Ret) Rick Myers is a former U.S. Navy Submarine officer, with experience involving the operation and maintenance of complex engineering systems on three nuclear powered submarines and one aircraft carrier. After a 21-year career in the Navy, Mr. Myers retired and embarked on a second career in law. While at Scalia Law, he served as an M-VETS Student Advisor for three semesters and gained valuable experience assisting veterans and active duty service members in civil matters as well as veterans benefit appeals. Read more.
Army 2LT Christian “C.J.” Nee (Scalia Law ’17)
Second Lieutenant Christian “C.J.” Nee is a recent graduate of Scalia Law and a three semester Student Advisor with M-VETS. During law school, C.J. was an evening student, working full-time during the day as a paralegal at the Department of Justice and later as a Law Clerk on the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations for U.S. Senator Tom Carper’s Office. Prior to attending law school, C.J. graduated summa cum laude from Florida State University with a double major in Political Science and Criminal Justice and Criminology. Read more.
Jessica O’Connell (Scalia Law ’13)
Jessica O’Connell is an Associate Counsel at the Board of Veterans Appeals (“BVA”) and 2013 Scalia Law graduate. Not only was Ms. O’Connell a former M-VETS Student Advisor, but she served as an Adjunct Professor for the program after her graduation. A 2005 graduate of the University of Connecticut with degree in political science, Ms. O’Connell attended law school after working several years as a paralegal and legal secretary for various law firms. Read more.