Los Angeles County is home to a diverse group of 304,828 veterans: 6% are women, 47% are people of color, 32% served during Vietnam, over 69% are 55 or older, and, relative to non-veterans in the region, more of them are unemployed (10.5% unemployment rate in 2015 for veterans versus 9.9% unemployment rate for non-veterans) or have incomes at or below the federal poverty level (91.4% of veterans as compared to 83.8% of non-veterans). The Veterans Community Legal Clinic (“Clinic”) will be a valuable part of addressing many of the unmet legal needs of this community.
The Clinic is part of the exciting new Veterans Advocacy Program of the UCLA School of Law. The Clinic is housed at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Campus (“Campus”), providing a unique opportunity for students to develop lawyering skills under the supervision of experienced professionals while assisting a community of underserved and marginalized veterans. As the Campus continues to be redeveloped over the next 10 years with approximately 1,200 permanent supportive housing units to help address the chronic homelessness of veterans in Los Angeles County, the Clinic’s clientele will include those who were chronically homeless to those who are aging, disabled, returning from incarceration, or women with dependents. Students enrolled in the clinic this year will experience the start-up and development of this exciting endeavor. Flexibility and creativity will be important to bring into the learning environment.
General Information on Structure and Case Work
• The primary case work will entail (a) veteran’s benefits or other legal matters affecting veterans accessing services on the Campus; and (b) for some students, a community assessment of advocacy needs and service gaps on the Campus.
• Students will develop client-centered and community centered approaches to legal representation accounting for intersectional identities and vulnerabilities of veterans. Students will explore critical theory and community lawyering as potential frameworks for understanding their clients’ lives and their roles as advocates.
• Students will be able to practice before the relevant agency, board or court in which your cases emerge. You will be “in the driver’s seat” of your cases with careful guidance from seasoned practitioner instructors.
• Students should expect to work with survivors of trauma and persons with chronic mental and physical challenges.
• The course will include three cites of learning—seminar, case rounds, and case work. Each will support and build on the other.
• Students will be grouped in teams of at least two for your case work. Each team will be assigned a primary faculty supervisor with whom you will meet each week for at least an hour outside of seminar.
• Students should expect to spend 10-12 hours on their field work (cases and/or community assessment) in addition to seminar reading and periodic assignments. Students accepted into the clinic are not allowed to take another clinic or part-time externship during the semester. Please contact the instructors with any questions and concerns.
• Students will be required to meet clients, engage in case work, and attend regular meetings on the Campus location, approximately 3 miles from the law school.
In the clinic seminar, students will gain lawyering skills essential to client-centered and community-centered representation. These include interviewing, counseling, fact investigation, and case theory. Instruction will be enhanced through client representation where skills are utilized to assist veterans and their families’ access benefits and other legal services. Although seminar instruction will also include law relevant to the case work, one of the learning goals of this clinic is to equip students with the transferable skill of learning a new area of law. Your instructors will assist you to learn from your experiences through reflection and self-assessment. Further, students will learn valuable skills associated with practicing in a law office that are essential regardless of whether they ultimately enter private practice, public interest or a government setting.