The University of Wisconsin Law School launched a new free legal clinic for veterans Thursday.
Second-year law student and Veteran Law Center Student Coordinator Danial Rock said in an email to The Badger Herald the free legal center will provide legal advice for veterans dealing with civil legal issues, including concerns such as family law, employment and consumer credit.
“The center will be a starting point for Madison veterans to go with their legal issues,” Rock said.
He added since the service is free, two law school student volunteers paired with two volunteer attorneys will staff each clinic service session. He said the students will be responsible for assisting in research and providing advice for veterans using the clinic.
Last Thursday, faculty, students, veterans and veteran advocates attended the inaugural session, Rock said. Margaret Raymond, dean of UW Law School and BJ Ganem of the Dane County Veteran’s Services Offices, each spoke and explained the functions and operations of the clinic while thanking the generous participants.
“After ten years of war the number of veterans in the area continues to increase,” Rock said. “Unfortunately, there are often many problems, including legal problems, that go along with returning from a deployment.”
Rock described the clinic’s main benefit as a starting point for Madison veterans to go with legal issues. He said if veterans’ issues become more complicated than the center’s capacity, the clinic can still be a valuable resource, providing guidance for further steps to take and referring them to those who can help them in the future.
Joshua Cornell, current law school student and former Marine, said he finds this opportunity to get involved with hands-on, pro bono work to be very significant.
“[The center provides] a really good opportunity to have programs that law students can volunteer to help with,” Cornell said. “[This] helps instill this idea in our minds early in our careers, mandating the idea that pro bono work is important to community from the get-go.”
Although volunteers for the clinic are unable to provide any direct legal advice, their roles are still significant, Cornell said. Helping to narrow down and identify the client’s issues before he or she sees the attorney, as well as helping with documentation, are some of the duties of student volunteers within the clinic, he added.
Cornell said he sees the center as an excellent way for UW in general to stay connected with Madison at large, providing a great opportunity give back to and have a positive role within the community.
According to Cornell, the center is a synthesis of the expertise and enthusiasm of local attorneys and student volunteers.
“[It is] important that you use your talents and education for service,” Cornell said. “This is a really good way to do that.”
The center will be open two Thursdays each month. The second Thursday of the month, it will operate at the City-County Building from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the fourth Thursday it will operate at Porchlight from 4 to 6 p.m.