Monday, June 29, 2009

GI Bill to Create Lawyers?

One way to improve legal services to servicemembers, veterans and their families is to turn some of them into legal professionals. The post-WW2 GI Bill was notable in this regard.

As for today's GI Bill, the Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Website implies, on its Welcome page, that GI Bill benefits can be applied to law school, and similar programs, e.g. paralegal and legal secretary.

A Law School would appear to qualify as an "Advanced Degree". To the extent that law school tuition exceeds the "highest in-state undergraduate tuition rate", addition aid may be available through the "Yellow Ribbon" program.

Most excitingly, GI Bill may be available to support Law Clerking programs such as WSBA's Rule 6 Law Clerking Program as a form of "On-the-Job or Apprenticeship Training". The VA gives as examples of this type of training "Union Plumber, Hotel Management and Firefighter"; Law Clerking is unarguably similar in form. VA reimburses the veterans at a fraction of the full time GI Bill rate, starting at 75% of the full-time GI Bill rate for the 1st six months and falling to 35% of the full-time GI Bill rate for the remainder of the training program, and also provides that the student may also receive a salary from your employer. That latter provision may make law clerking, currently a necessarily low-paying gig, practical for more veterans. The hang-up would be finding law firms or other organizations (e.g. government departments) willing to take on a clerk; however perhaps the current economic difficulties can make clerks a value proposition all around.

Some or all of these benefits may be transferrable to qualified spouses. This may be an economical and efficient way to serve the veteran community.

An organized effort to turn some of our veterans into legal professionals will pay big dividends. But how to start?

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