WACO— November 9, 2018
It's Our Honor To Serve Those Who Have Served
When Central Texas Veterans encounter legal issues, be it a pending lawsuit, a family law issue, or a bankruptcy crisis, they often have nowhere to turn or have insufficient income to hire an attorney. Since 2012, Baylor Law has worked to close the access-to-justice gap among those who have served our nation. This Veterans Day, Baylor Law is proud to announce it has assisted over 1,000 veterans and their spouses through the Veterans Clinic.
In partnership with the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop in Waco, the Veterans Clinic responds to the needs of veterans and their families through a comprehensive model of both legal and social services. Since 2012, the free monthly legal advice clinics have assisted veterans with a myriad of legal issues ranging from family law, to consumer debt and bankruptcy issues, to real estate disputes. In many instances, Baylor Law provides limited legal assistance, and refers clients for continuing legal services to a network of local pro bono attorneys. In other instances, the clinic provides full-service legal representation and takes cases in-house, with students handling a client’s case, under attorney supervision, all the way through resolution.
Unlike other law school clinics, Baylor Law students receive no course credit for the volunteer work they do at the Clinic. Additionally, Baylor Law does not require its students to work at a clinic to graduate. The students who volunteer do so simply out of a desire to serve.
Earlier this year, a United States Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War visited the free legal advice clinic after having been sued by a national auto finance corporation. Several years ago, this veteran had accompanied his son to a now-defunct car dealership in Dallas. He was told by the sales staff that he was co-signing a loan for his son to obtain financing for the purchase of a new vehicle. After returning home to Waco and reviewing the paperwork from the dealership, he realized that he had been misled by the salesman and had actually purchased the car himself. He returned the vehicle to the dealership the following day to rescind the sale.
The dealership then sold the vehicle at auction for $20,000 less than the contract price. After being hounded by debt collectors for over a year, they sued him in McLennan County for the $20,000 deficiency plus attorney’s fees. That’s when he turned to Baylor Law’s Veterans Clinic for help.
To avoid a default judgment, the Veterans Clinic filed a general denial and then assigned the case to Baylor Law student Shaina Hayes to examine the documents provided by the client. Shaina, herself an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, reviewed the documentation and found grounds for meritorious defenses and counterclaims, meaning she found proof of the car dealership’s wrongful conduct, which allowed the client to counter-sue.
Since 2012, the Veterans Clinic has been generously supported by the Texas Access to Justice Foundation
Under the supervision of clinic director and attorney Josh Borderud, Shaina drafted counterclaims alleging fraud and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act. After the countersuit was filed, the auto finance company made a change in representation from a debt collection law firm to a large, international law firm. Working with a lawyer outside of Texas, the clinic was able to negotiate a mutual release of all claims by both parties, which allowed the veteran to move on with his life and put this lawsuit behind him – and saving him more than $20,000.
Baylor law is also honored to share additional stories of how Baylor Law students are serving those who served and honor our current Baylor Law student-veterans. You can read these stories, below:
Estate Planning – And So Much More
A Vietnam veteran of the U.S. Army visited our clinic this past summer asking for help with estate planning. Working under the supervision of Professor Tom Featherston, Baylor Law student Brian Shepherd drafted wills for the veteran and his wife.
Writing to express her gratitude, the veteran's spouse said, "This has been so helpful, not only financially, but information-wise. We were provided medical information we didn't even realize we needed. I Can't begin to tell you how my husband was treated with such respect. I am so appreciative of this clinic."
A Veteran’s Family Grows – Thanks to Baylor Law’s Veterans Clinic
Students and volunteer attorneys sometimes work for several months – dedicating hundreds of hours to see a case through to resolution. In one such case, an Army veteran from Killeen come into our December 2017 legal advice clinic at the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, seeking help with a complicated adoption situation. His 11-year-old step-son has already had his rights terminated to his birth father and the veteran wanted to adopt the child. Bell County family lawyer Elisabeth Llamas agreed to take this case on a pro bono basis and shepherded the veteran and his family through the often-complex adoption process. The adoption was finalized by mid-summer. We are grateful to Ms. Llamas, for uniting a veteran’s family in such a meaningful way.
Veterans Clinic Advocated for Veterans Treatment Court
In addition to supporting veterans at the monthly clinics, clinic staff has been hard at work spearheading the creation of a new Veterans Treatment Court in McLennan County that would focus on meeting veterans’ mental health needs and emphasize rehabilitation over punishment. The Texas Legislature passed a law in 2009 allowing for the creation of specialty courts for veterans in Texas. Thanks to the advocacy of Baylor Law’s Josh Borderud, Professor Bridget Fuselier, and dozens of other veterans-support organizations, this summer McLennan County Commissioners approved funding for a new court docket for veterans.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ed Nelson, Director of Marketing & Communications
ABOUT BAYLOR LAW
Established in 1857, Baylor Law School was one of the first law schools in Texas and one of the first west of the Mississippi River. Today, the school has more than 7,400 living alumni. It is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools. Baylor Law School has a record of producing outstanding lawyers, many of whom decide upon a career in public service. The Law School boasts two governors, members or former members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, two former directors of the FBI, U.S. ambassadors, federal judges, justices of the Texas Supreme Court and members of the Texas Legislature, among its notable alumni. In its law specialties rankings, U.S. News & World Report ranked Baylor Law’s trial advocacy program as one of the top 5 in the nation. Baylor Law School is also ranked #50 in the magazine’s 2019 edition of "America’s Best Graduate Schools." The National Jurist ranks Baylor Law as one of the "Best School for Practical Training," and in the top 15 "Best Law School Facilities" in the country. The Business Insider places Baylor Law among the top 50 law schools in the nation. Baylor Law School received the 2015 American Bar Association Pro Bono Publico Award, making it only the third law school in the nation to be honored with the award since the award's inception in 1984. Learn more at baylor.edu/law
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Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Learn more at baylor.edu