The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, William H. Bowen School of Law is launching two new programs that will provide free legal services to veterans in Arkansas. The law school will open a veterans legal services clinic and a veterans legal service center. Eventually, eight law school students, who are under the supervision of a clinical facilitator, will staff the programs and provide services each semester.
The clinic will initially focus on disability claims and appeals of discharge status. Those services may expand in the future to different areas.
“We’re going to start with these. Having talked to clinics in others states that have these kinds of programs, this is usually where they start for the first few years, and then expand out, depending on what the demand is,” Bowen Dean Theresa Beiner said.
Speaking during a news conference on Tuesday, Beiner said the Veterans Pro Bono Services Center will organize and sponsor free Continuing Legal Education (CLE) throughout Arkansas as well as establish a statewide network of attorneys willing to represent veterans on a pro bono basis.
“Through these programs, law students and attorneys will have the opportunity to give back to the men and women of Arkansas who have served our country so well in the armed services,” Beiner said.
The services are funded by two $750,000 contributions provided by the offices of both Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Attorney General Leslie Rutledge. Speaking during the news conference, Rutledge spoke on another group besides veterans who will benefit from the program.
“It’s going to train new future lawyers and to give them that servant’s heart that we need more people to have to serve others than themselves and I believe this is going to be something just wonderful for the entire state of Arkansas,” Rutledge said. Hutchinson, who took on veterans’ cases himself when he was an attorney, said this program is necessary for the state.
“This veterans clinic here is going to be highly utilized. It’s going to be a great training ground for students as mentioned, but it is also going to be a source of referrals back to attorneys in our state that can handle these cases and hopefully increase the number of attorneys that will be engaged with providing veterans legal services,” Hutchinson said.
Students who are in their second or third year of law school can apply to work at the legal service program. The work meets the requirement of a clinic or externship that students must complete before graduation. According to Kelly Terry with the Bowen School of Law, any prospective students must pass a course on the rules of professional conduct before participating in any clinic.
According to Beiner, the school is currently in the process of hiring the director of the clinic and once that is completed, they will have a greater sense of how many claims the clinic can take on at one time.