The University of Illinois College of Law will be launching a new clinical program, the Veterans Legal Clinic, in the fall of 2018.
The clinic will focus on the civil legal needs of veterans in the community. Many veterans cannot afford to hire an attorney and veterans, as a population, have a disproportionately high need for legal help. Students in the clinic will have the opportunity to provide high-quality legal help in a wide array of civil matters, including family law cases, consumer disputes, and evictions. The clinic will also assist veterans with service-related matters such as discharge upgrades. Students will collaborate with local veteran service organizations to address holistically the needs of their clients.
Students will learn to interview and counsel clients and will work with clients to solve their legal problems and otherwise advocate for them. They will also perform fact investigation, case planning, negotiation, research, brief writing, and oral advocacy. As the primary contact person for their clients, opposing attorneys and the court, students will appear at all court dates in their cases. The classroom component will explore the lawyer’s role and will help students develop the skills necessary to be effective advocates. In addition to introducing students to the pressing legal and social issues facing veterans, the clinic will provide students with the opportunity to discuss their cases in rounds as well as in the context of class topics.
Professor Yulanda Curtis will direct the Veterans Legal Clinic. She joins the Illinois Law faculty from the University of Michigan, where she has spent the past three years as a clinical teaching fellow for their veterans clinic.
Prior to her time at Michigan, she served as an associate counsel with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In that role, she researched and wrote decisions that determined eligibility for VA disability, education, and medical reimbursement benefits. She also has served on a temporary appointment as an attorney for the Social Security Administration (SSA), Office of Appellate Operations. At SSA she gained valuable insight into a similar federal disability program. As a result of the insights she gained at SSA, Professor Curtis presented ideas to senior VA officials regarding the need for improved consistency in employee training across the VA. Her recommendations to senior VA officials also allowed her to participate in a pilot initiative to develop a cadre of potential leaders to support the mission of the VA.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have Professor Curtis joining our clinical team. She brings a wealth of experience starting up a Veterans Clinic and will bring the Illinois community access to critical services that will help us honor the veterans who have served our country. The College of Law is fortunate to have many students with ties to the military who are eager to give back and begin to develop their legal skills by serving veterans in need of legal assistance within our community,” said Melissa Frydman, Director of Clinical Education.