New veterans law program is one way to ‘give a little back’

As the number of military veterans returning to civilian life increases, so does the need to help them with a wide array of issues. That need prompted Professor David Prince to develop Mitchell’s first Veterans Law Externship, which is having its initial trial run this semester with two students.

The course requires that the students spend a total of 100 hours of time, in the classroom, doing research, and working with clients on other case-related issues.

“The course focuses on serving the legal needs and interests of veterans,” says Prince. “With various classroom speakers and practical experience, we give students an overview while exposing them to the type of law they’ll encounter, so they can spot issues when they’re talking to veterans.”

A weekly seminar gives students a background in the areas of law most likely to be encountered in representing the veteran-clients, including how the law defines a veteran, veterans’ benefits, housing, employment, family law, professional responsibility, and veterans courts.

Students are matched with a practicing lawyer who helps guide their work with those who served the country.

William Mitchell is the only law school in Minnesota named “Military Friendly” by G.I. Jobs magazine, in part because of its commitment to helping a population that is often forgotten.

“There are a lot of vets in the community now and that number keeps increasing as these recent wars wind down,” says Prince. “The disruptions of coming and going result in a lot of problems. People have trouble getting reintegrated into their jobs. A huge percentage are homeless—no permanent address, no phone. “

Prince says he’d like to see the Veterans Law Externship program grow to about six to eight students every semester who would be supervised by a regular rotating group of lawyers. He says legal work on behalf of veterans is just the right thing to do.

“These are people who have given a lot to us and we’re just trying to give a little bit back through this work,” he says.