William & Mary Law School: Military Mondays Expand Across the Country

Military Mondays Expand Across the Country

  • Counsel Over Coffee
    Counsel Over Coffee  Military Mondays programs allow legal experts to meet veterans in a relaxing venue to provide free advice and counsel about disability compensation benefits, preparation for separation from the military, and referrals to additional community resources.  Photo by Suzanne Seurattan
William & Mary Law School

Military Mondays programs are expanding across the country.

In February alone, three law schools launched Military Mondays in Washington, D.C., Atlanta, and Miami. Since then, additional locations have begun in partnership with Legal Services of Southern Piedmont in North Carolina; and programs in Boston, Missouri, Ohio, and New York City are in the planning stages.

A collaboration between William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller, Jr., Veterans Benefits Clinic and Starbucks’ Armed Forces Network, Military Mondays began in late June 2015, at a Starbucks in Williamsburg, Va.

Meeting veterans and their families over coffee in a relaxing venue, Puller Clinic faculty and students provide free advice and counsel about disability compensation benefits, preparation for separation from the military, and referrals to additional community resources.

A continent away, Antoinette Balta, president and co-founder of the Veterans Legal Institute in Orange County, Ca., learned of the program and was inspired enough to launch her own in November. It didn’t take long for it to make a difference.

During a recent Military Monday, for instance, Balta’s staff met with eight clients, including one veteran in need of immigration assistance. The clinic’s pro bono immigration attorney was able to provide the client with free services worth $6,000 in legal fees.

Balta was also able to connect a homeless client with a community resource that offered shelter and got him off the streets by that evening.

Bolstered by these and other successes, Balta’s advice for law schools considering a Military Mondays program is simple.“

Just do it,” she says. “ Nothing is more rewarding or American than serving a deserving population at Starbucks.”

On February 4, the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law did just that when they launched their first Military Mondays in Washington, D.C.

Sonia Weil, clinical instructor in the General Practice Clinic, said her long-term goal is to “create a sustainable project providing legal assistance to veterans and to add value to the existing network of resources available to this population.”

Weil is getting the word out by circulating flyers widely among legal service providers and veterans organizations in the area. These include the National Veterans Legal Services Program, Protect Our Defenders, So Others Might Eat, Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and Neighborhood Legal Services Program.

In addition, Weil plans to partner with the D.C. Mayor’s Office for Veterans Affairs, which offers various training programs for veterans and assistance in disability compensation, housing, and family law.

Similarly on February 22 in Atlanta, Ga., the Emory University School of Law, started their own Military Mondays. Law student Mallory Ball explained that Emory students are being paired with attorneys for two-hour shifts so they can participate in two client meetings.

Ball said that establishing a Military Mondays program was easy thanks to the ready cooperation of Patricia Roberts, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Clinical Programs and the Puller Clinic at William & Mary.

“Professor Roberts has been great about providing guidance along the way,” Ball said.

She credited Roberts with sharing documents that put Emory in the best position to replicate the program, as well as connecting her to Starbucks for choosing the best store location in Atlanta, marketing the program, and creating a Military Mondays schedule.

The Puller Clinic’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. In January, the Clinic and Starbucks Armed Forces Network were honored wih the American Bar Association’s (ABA) 2016 Brown Select Award from among 32 competitors. The criteria for the award included innovation in the provision of legal services to those with unmet legal needs of the middle class and those of moderate incomes, and the potential for replication of the program.

The ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services presented the award to Roberts, Lacey Price, District Manager for Starbucks, and Eric Olson, Store Manager for Starbucks, on February 6, 2016 in San Diego.

Any student or community member interested in learning more about Military Mondays or the Puller Clinic is encouraged to reach out by calling (757) 221-7443 or emailing veterans@wm.edu.

About William & Mary Law School

Thomas Jefferson founded William & Mary Law School in 1779 to train leaders for the new nation. Now in its third century, America’s oldest law school continues its historic mission of educating citizen lawyers who are prepared both to lead and to serve.

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