Trailblazing Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic Opens New Facility at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago

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Illinois VA Director is among those scheduled to celebrate John Marshall’s newly renovated space in downtown Chicago for its veterans legal assistance program.

Illinois VA Director is among those scheduled to celebrate John Marshall’s newly renovated space in downtown Chicago for its veterans legal assistance program.

The veterans free legal clinic at The John Marshall Law School becomes the largest such facility in the U.S., with the inaugural opening of its groundbreaking space designed to meet veterans’ needs.

The Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic (VLSC) provides services pro bono to veterans, now in a 5,300-square-foot space officially opened Sept. 26. From the color of paint on its walls to the open feel of its work areas, the space was designed to focus on the needs of veterans living with post-traumatic stress disorder.

John Marshall students working under the supervision of practicing attorneys and professors assist veterans resolve benefits claims and other legal problems. It’s a model that has inspired other legal clinics as well as students, like former Marine Joseph Wagner, who chose to pursue his degree at John Marshall after learning of the work students do in the VLSC.

“Working in the VLSC is very important to me because of what our nation’s veterans have done for our country,” said Wagner, who will graduate in May 2014. “I’m someone who has worked the system from both sides — as a vet applying for benefits and now helping veterans as a legal professional.”

When the clinic first opened at John Marshall in 2007, it was among the first in the U.S. Since its inception, more than 100 students have worked at least two days per week at the clinic, fielding more than 1,000 calls for assistance a year. The clinic is a key part of John Marshall’s innovative experiential learning programs aimed at giving students practical experience before they graduate.

“The clinic has a wonderful mission of helping the veteran,” said Brian Clauss, the clinic’s executive director. “But from the law school’s perspective we serve another mission and that is giving our students the experience of dealing with a client and then an agency. They are able to use their law school training in a clinical setting where they are being supervised by attorneys who can help guide them.”

Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs Director Erica Borggren is among the dignitaries expected to attend the clinic’s ribbon-cutting opening, set for 11 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the center’s state-of-the-art space at 19 W. Jackson Blvd.

“I am deeply moved by the patriotism, vision and determination that led three students at The John Marshall Law School to create the Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic, and I am proud that their efforts have proven so successful,” Illinois Gov. Patrick Quinn said in the preface of LexisNexis’s Servicemember and Veterans Rights, a book edited by VLSC’s Clauss.

From its beginning, the clinic and its students’ work have received the support of key officials in the fight for veterans rights, including U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)

“Our veterans need to be able to access legal assistance from a professional who understands both the intricacies of the veteran compensation and appeals system, as well as the unique culture and values of the military,” Duckworth said in 2009 for a military service and law book, which Clauss edited.

“We’re all here to serve those who served us,” Clauss said.

The facility expands the law school’s presence in Chicago’s Loop and anchors the school at the city’s education corridor. The clinic was designed by Griskelis Young Harrell and constructed by Bulley & Andrews.

The opening of the VLSC completes the major renovations work at John Marshall during the past three years. Other renovations include converting first-floor storefront space into a new student commons and cafeteria, and giving the law school a main entrance onto Chicago’s State Street. The school’s second-floor Sargis-Miner Student Lounge was also revamped. The overhauls were included in American School & University’s 2013 American School and University Educational Interiors Showcase.

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About The John Marshall Law School
The John Marshall Law School, founded in 1899, is an independent law school located in the heart of Chicago’s legal, financial and commercial districts. Through classes, clinics and special programs, students develop the strategic, analytical and transactional lawyering skills that are so valuable to employers. Its excellent curriculum, coupled with outstanding skills and experiential learning, help make John Marshall graduates practice-ready from day one. For practicing attorneys, John Marshall offers nine LLM degrees, more than any other law school in the Midwest. John Marshall is also a leader in providing distance education options in intellectual property, estate planning and employee benefits at the advanced graduate degree level. John Marshall offers six clinical experiences, including the nationally recognized Veterans Legal Support Center & Clinic and the Fair Housing Legal Clinic. U.S. News & World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools 2014 edition ranks John Marshall’s Lawyering Skills Program second and its Intellectual Property Law program 12th in the nation.

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Marilyn Thomas
The John Marshall Law School
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