"To Serve Those Who Served Us": Director of Clinical Ed Describes Veteran Initiatives
Prof. Jeffrey R. Baker is the Director of Clinical Education at Pepperdine School of Law, an institution deeply committed to "training for lives of purpose, service, and leadership." The National Jurist recently named Pepperdine the fourth-ranked law school in the country for "practical training." Over thirty veterans receive free law tuition through Pepperdine's Yellow Ribbon program.
In 2013, Pepperdine School of Law received a generous grant from a private family foundation to fund an assessment of access to justice and civil legal needs for veterans and former service members in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. In 2014, under the principal direction of Prof. Jeff Baker, Director of Clinical Education, the School of Law presented a report to a comprehensive gathering of people and organizations who serve veterans in these communities. The report identified several fundamental needs for legal services among veterans and also identified several strong collaborators who are providing pro bono services to this population. The report suggested several strategies to expand and improve access to justice through collaboration and new initiatives at the School of Law.
On the strength of new partnerships and with the data gathered by in the report, the private foundation agreed to extend and modify the grant to support new initiatives for veterans. With this funding, the School of Law is collaborating with several organizations to increase veterans' access to civil legal services. The grant will fund stipends for several students to work for pro bono attorneys through 2016 and will fund justice bus trips to remote communities. In addition to the grant-funded projects, the School of Law is launching the new Veterans Law Practicum with the Ventura County Public Defender's Office.
Legal Aid Clinics
In 2014, the Ventura County Military Collaborative launched a pro bono legal clinic with volunteer attorneys and multidisciplinary support from area agencies. Beginning in Fall 2015, Pepperdine law students will work with the Collaborative to administer, organize and promote the clinic and will provide legal work in support of the volunteer attorneys.
Also in 2014, the Ventura Vet Center started a pro bono clinic to serve qualifying veterans. Law students will support the Vet Center clinic with intake, legal research and other work with the volunteer pro bono attorneys.
OneJustice is the statewide pro bono collaborative for pro bono lawyers in California. Its Rural Justice Bus program coordinates with pro bono lawyers to bring volunteer lawyers and law students to day-long clinics in underserved parts of the state. In the Spring 2015 term, seven law students participated in a clinic in Camarillo through OneJustice and the Ventura County Military Collaborative. With extended grant funding, the School of Law is coordinating with OneJustice to offer up to ten clinics to serve veterans in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Most of the students will be in their first year, accelerating their experiential learning in the field, helping them fulfill their pro bono commitments, and instilling the virtue of service early in their law school career.
Students in the Court System
The Ventura County Superior Court operates the Veterans Treatment Court as a component of its collaborative courts, providing alternative sentencing and diversion options for veterans who can connect their criminal charges to the effects of military service. Law students will receive stipends to work for the court as clerks and to help administer caseloads to promote timely and efficient administration of these cases.
Through the work of the needs assessment study, the School of Law deepened its relationship with the Ventura County Public Defender's Office. The Public Defenders in Ventura County lead the nation in indigent criminal defense for veterans across the various collaborative courts within the Ventura County Superior Court, including the Veterans Treatment Court, Mental Health Court, Homeless Court and Drug Court. In Fall 2015, the School of Law is launching the Veterans Law Practicum with the Ventura County Public Defender. In the practicum, law students will receive intensive training and experience with the defenders representing veterans in the collaborative courts. Each term, a new cohort of students will support the defenders and receive advising from law faculty to guide reflection on their work in the field.
With support from the family foundation, in collaboration with excellent professionals, the School of Law is poised to provide dramatic new experience for law students in the service of veterans. Pepperdine law students will work with these attorneys to expand and improve their capacity to serve those who have served our nation and who have great need in their communities.
Admissions programs for student veterans: https://law.pepperdine.edu/admissions/veterans/
Experiential learning at Pepperdine Law: https://law.pepperdine.edu/experiential-learning/
About Pepperdine Law
Pepperdine School of Law, founded in 1964 and located in Malibu, California, is committed to serving students by preparing them for lives of purpose, service, and leadership in a rapidly changing legal environment. Pepperdine Law provides highly qualified students with a superior legal education through a combination of rigorous academic programs, meaningful interaction with faculty, and extensive clinical and experiential opportunities. The school prepares students for positions as counselors, advocates, and judges; as business persons; and as researchers, teachers, and philosophers of the law. On the web: https://law.pepperdine.edu