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It's not unheard of for law schools to provide pro bono legal services through student clinics. Some provide legal services to community first-responders and to retired and even current military personnel. In the case of veterans, the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed to in the military presents them with special challenges as they can no longer turn to the structure of the chain of command.
Wake Forest University School of Law recently joined those ranks, with its nascent clinic. Wake Forest's Veteran's Legal Clinic was officially launched this fall, according to the Winston-Salem Journal. It not only serves veterans but also currently active-duty service members, reservists, and non-affiliated veterans. It's part of the growing number of vitally needed legal clinics that law schools have spearheaded in order to provide legal assistance to men and women who've served in the armed forces.
Falling Through the Cracks
Josh Harper, a 3L at Wake Forest, makes it clear that an aim of the clinic is to address the difficulties women and men in uniform have to deal with when addressing their own legal problems. "The most confusing days are the first day in the Army and the first day out of the Army," he says. He also mentioned that the structure of the army provides a system upon which service personnel can turn to in order to resolve their legal issues. He should know what he's talking about: he was deployed to Afghanistan and served as a military intelligence officer from 2008 to 2013.
According to Harper and other students, the military does not yet recognize symptoms of PTSD from the Vietnam era and as a result, many vets were not discharged honorably -- cutting them from benefits and privileges. Thus, people who had otherwise honorably served, would essentially get passed over because of cracks in the system. Clinics like the Veteran's Legal Clinic helps vets get discharge benefits.
Currently, word of the clinic is spreading with a help of a Wake Forest alum, John Mayhugh, who also helps the clinic verify the military service of personnel.
Role of Legal Clinics
Legal clinic services provided by law schools are not there simply to help persons in uniform, but others who may also be at the margins of society and who cannot afford legal representation. Attorneys should consider contributing pro-bono hours to their local law school's legal clinics. Such experience will also hone experience for a specific area of practice.