The University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law is creating a Veterans Legal Services Clinic that will assist Arkansas veterans in need of legal services.
Plans for the new clinic were announced Tuesday at a news conference attended by Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, who each funded half of the $1.5 million project. The tentative opening date for the Veterans Legal Services Clinic is fall 2020.
“Providing legal aid through the Veterans Legal Services Clinic is another way to show our appreciation to veterans for what often is a life-altering sacrifice,” Gov. Hutchinson said. “I commend the Bowen School of Law for launching this project, and I am honored to be able to help fund the clinic on behalf of all Arkansans.”
Law students will work in this clinic under the supervision of a Bowen faculty member who will represent Arkansas veterans in both the Veterans Affairs disability appeal process as well as in the process for reconsideration of discharge status.
“Arkansas is home to over 250,000 veterans who have honorably served our country to protect our freedoms,” Attorney General Rutledge said. “Sadly, too many veterans do not have the financial means to address service-related legal issues. The funds allocated to the Veterans Legal Services Clinic will not only provide legal assistance to our nation’s heroes, but it will give future attorneys the education, opportunity and desire to serve those who have served us.”
This legal clinic will also serve as a Veterans Pro Bono Services Center for the state of Arkansas. It will coordinate and provide practicing attorneys free continuing legal education on veterans’ legal issues and then seek to match participating attorneys with Arkansas veterans in need of legal assistance.
“These two endeavors further Bowen’s commitment to our core values of access to justice, public service, and professionalism,” said Theresa Beiner, dean of the law school. “The legal clinic’s goal is to spark in our students a lifelong dedication to serving this very worthy group. The services center will continue that mission by providing attorneys with training opportunities and helping them connect with veterans in need of legal services.”
Of Bowen’s 452 current students, approximately 29 are veterans or active military. More than 30 Bowen graduates are veterans or active military members across all services.Recent Bowen graduate N. Simon Kelly has been one of the driving forces behind this effort. Kelly, a U.S. Army veteran, has served as president of Bowen’s Student Veterans Organization for the past three years. He has also spent many hours volunteering at veterans’ legal clinics and the Veteran Legal Assistance Program at the Veterans Day Treatment Center in Little Rock.
“When we went to war, it was with our brothers and sisters. Leaving the military can feel like leaving your family behind,” Kelly said. “Further, the benefits process can be daunting and complicated. This clinic will work to alleviate some of those challenges. It will also create a deeper veteran community in Little Rock and show our veterans that they are not alone.”
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic will be the seventh legal clinic at Bowen providing opportunities for law students to represent clients while still in law school. Other clinics include Business Innovations, Consumer Protection, Delta, Litigation, Mediation, and Tax.
The Veterans Legal Services Clinic will not be reviewing and accepting cases until Fall 2020