Supporting Servicemembers and Veterans

DF-SC-84-11899On this Veterans Day we remember the service of so many in the armed forces and merchant marine.   We are grateful for their public service and wish to support them in their return to civilian life.  As we have been made all too aware, the sacrifices extend beyond the servicemembers to their families and communities.   

Almost two years ago, we convened a group of servicemembers and veterans here at Marquette Law School to explore ways the Law School could support their service.    Spearheaded by a district legal services attorney for the U.S. Coast Guard (which maintains an active base in Milwaukee), this committee grew to include officers and enlisted personnel from the Army, Air Force, Naval Reserve, and Wisconsin National Guard, as well as veterans.   This committee alerted us to some of the legal challenges facing military personnel, their families, and veterans.   For example, Judge Advocates General can provide advice to military personnel regarding civil legal matters, but they do not represent them in civilian courts.   Sometimes a service member is not attached to a unit – either separated or in Individual Ready Reserve – and thus does not have easy access to a Unit JAG.  Other times, JAG offices may be at a headquarters base hundreds of miles from their duty station and unfamiliar with local court rules.   Similarly, while veterans receive a number of benefits through the county, state, and federal veterans administrations, access to legal counsel is not one of them.

Thus, with support from the State Bar of Wisconsin and the ABA,  Marquette Law School launched SAVLAW: Servicemembers and Veterans Legal Assistance for Wisconsin. 

Our website may be found at:  Under the leadership of Marquette Law School’s Pro Bono Coordinator, Adie Olson, we convened a panel of pro bono attorneys and law students in two distinct projects.   The first provides an opportunity for active-duty servicemembers (regular, guard, or reserve) and their families to access legal advice for civil legal matters that affect their ability to serve, or impact their rights under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.   The Law School hosted a special CLE training on the SCRA and related laws for lawyers interested in volunteering with the program that was webcast statewide.   In addition to providing general advice and a link to pro bono representation, SAVLAW is gathering information to provide legal outreach to family members left behind by deployed personnel.   For veterans, SAVLAW opened a branch of the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinic at the Milwaukee County Veterans Services office on the federal VA grounds.   The MVLC at the VA now operates on the first and third Mondays of the month from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.   Staffed by pro bono attorneys who are themselves veterans, alongside Marquette law students, the clinic provides much-needed legal counsel to veterans in a wide range of civil legal matters.

In these practical and professional ways, Marquette Law School honors its veterans, as well as those who continue to serve our country in the Armed Forces.   Supporting this important public service is another way we are reaching out to our community, meeting a need, and building a new law school.   Please join me in thanking our veterans, as well as all of our volunteer lawyers and law students who serve them through SAVLAW.   Happy Veterans Day!

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