Serving Those Who Served

November 8, 2023
Photo of Veteran

Baylor Law School has nearly a dozen clinics and events that serve a variety of populations in the community. One of these is the Veterans Clinic, which allows law students to meet veterans in Waco and help address their legal needs.

The clinic is a hybrid of traditional clinical legal education, legal advice clinics and a pro bono referral service. The Veterans Clinic alongside its long-time partner, the Heart of Texas Veterans One Stop, organizes monthly free legal advice clinics. Students and faculty meet veterans to advise them on non-criminal legal issues of all kinds, including family law, real estate, bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, probate and estate planning. 

The legal advice clinics also are an exercise for Baylor Law students in developing their client counseling skills. Josh Borderud, B.A. ’01, M.A. ’03, J.D. ’09, directs the Law School’s Clinical and Pro Bono Programs. Borderud noted that students gain important professional skills in the clinic. 

“Our students develop a greater confidence in their ability to have a conversation about a client’s legal issue in the initial interview. This is a skill that requires patience, empathy and respect while asking direct questions.” 

Baylor Law students interview veterans and then accompany a volunteer attorney in the advice and counsel session. If the veteran meets income qualifications, the case is referred to a local attorney on a pro bono basis or taken in-house for students to work on under attorney supervision.

Student service in the clinics is on a volunteer basis. Borderud praised the service of participants.

“While pro bono clinical work is encouraged at Baylor Law, our student volunteers are going above and beyond what is required by the curriculum. Many of our law student volunteers served in the military or have a relative or loved one who served.”

One such student is Rhasean Stephens, a second-year law student and captain in the United States Army from El Paso, Texas. 

“Being able to connect with veterans speaks to my skill set in understanding their stories, their lives, what they’ve been through. Serving those who serve this country really speaks to my heart and to the mission of public service.”

For Stephens, his time in the clinic has a powerful impact on how he approaches his study of law.

“Everything that I learned may possibly affect my client, and so it allows me to take a different perspective and approach to how I engage the material in class.”

Service to veterans in the clinic is only one chapter in a lifetime of service for Stephens. As a future judge advocate for the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Corps, Stephens will continue to serve active duty service members and veterans throughout his career.

“I think I’ve always had a heart for public service, a heart for helping other people. Volunteering in the clinic definitely reemphasizes that. It’s such meaningful work, you meet great people and you’re able to help and connect with people in ways that I don’t think you would typically do if you were to work in a corporate law office.”

The Veterans Clinic celebrated its 10-year anniversary in September. In October, the clinic reached an impressive milestone of more than 2,000 veterans served.