The Veterans Legal Clinic–its official title in the curriculum is the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic–is made up of three collaborative projects: the Veterans Justice Project; the Estate Planning Project; and the Safety Net Project. Through these three projects, students represent veterans and their family members in a variety of case types. In all our case work, we strive to help veterans and their families attain the maximum degree of stability, dignity, and financial well being. We use creative legal strategies not just to vindicate the rights of individual veterans, but to pursue systemic reforms within the institutions and programs that are designed to support the veteran community.
Enrollment in all three projects is through the Veterans Law and Disability Benefits Clinic and Clinical Seminar. We ask enrolled students to express their preference for one of our three project areas. Students can also choose, however, to work across two projects if that option is attractive to them. We fully expect to be able to honor each student’s first preference for working in a particular project.
About the Estate Planning Project
Through the Project, students handle various case types, all with the purpose of helping veterans exercise the maximum control over family, health, and financial decision making. Among other things, students may represent clients on matters involving:
- Health Care Proxies
- Durable Powers of Attorney
- Funeral/Memorial Advance Directives
- Medical Directives
- Special Needs Trusts
- VA fiduciaries
Clinic students will have numerous lawyering opportunities, including client interviewing, legal research & writing, client counseling, and drafting and executing legal instruments.
Many of the veterans we represent have serious health issues. Some clients are older and in failing health, others are younger and have returned from recent overseas deployments with PTSD or Traumatic Brain Injury as well as other injuries. Students in the Clinic have frequent opportunities to interact with medical providers and medical experts and to work on cases at the intersection of mental health and the law.
Representative Case Examples from the Estate Planning Project
Please click here to learn more about the Project’s current and recent docket.
For more information about the Clinic or to ask questions, please email Clinical Instructor Destini Agüero daguero[at]law.harvard.edu.
What Students Are Saying About Their Experiences in the Estate Planning Project
• “My time in the Estate Planning Project of the Veterans Legal Clinic was invaluable. I came into law school with a background in language development, which always seemed entirely unrelated to legal work. However, because of the Clinic’s focus on taking initiative and creative lawyering, I found myself pulling from this background to develop new client communication techniques and watching first-hand just how much of a positive impact a unique approach based on my own experiences could have. The Clinic irreversibly changed my idea of what it means to be an effective lawyer, while also providing the immensely rewarding experience of being able to interact with and advocate for clients.” (Spring 2021) — Lauren Perillo, J.D. ’22
• “One of my most valuable experiences at Harvard Law School has been working with the Estate Planning Project in the Veterans Legal Clinic.” (Spring 2016) — Stephanie Jimenez, J.D. ’17
• “This past September, I enrolled in the Estate Planning Project, with the Veteran’s Legal Clinic. My work with that clinic turned out to be one of the most valuable, and absolutely the most rewarding experience of my academic career.” (Spring 2016) — Travis Leverett, J.D. ’17
The Clinic plays a vital community role. There are approximately 400,000 veterans in Massachusetts, and a significant percentage—including far too many homeless veterans and a growing population of women veterans—lacks access to legal representation. Helping this population addresses an enormous unmet legal need and provides students a powerful opportunity to advocate for those who have served the country and fallen on hard times. Students work on compelling and timely legal issues, from compensation for military sexual trauma or Agent Orange exposure to protection of a veteran’s limited assets and access to healthcare.
We are grateful to the DAV Charitable Service Trust for its generous support of our legal services program for disabled veterans.