CARBONDALE — A recent Illinois Bar Foundation (IBF) grant will allow Southern Illinois University School of Law’s Civil Practice Clinic to expand its basic estate planning and other civil law services to veterans and their immediate families.
The clinic provides free services for persons 60 years and older in the region’s 13 southernmost counties. The $15,000 IBF grant will enable veterans and their immediate families, including spouses, of all ages the ability to receive the same services, said Dale J. Aschemann, clinical assistant professor of law with the Civil Practice Clinic. Along with assisting in estate planning, Aschemann anticipates students will assist in other civil matters, including adult guardianships, power of attorney for health care and finances.
“I think the estate planning aspect of law and what the students provide and the attention to detail they bring is a valuable service,” Aschemann said. “It’s satisfying to me that we can offer it to veterans of any age. People don’t like to think about their affairs in terms of dying, but I see routinely from where I sit the consequence of what happens if you don’t prepare and what your family is left with.”
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Students hone skills
Eight second- or third-year students will participate each semester and can earn 3 credit hours, which includes classroom work. The students will have 711 licenses, which under Supreme Court Rule 711, will allow them to make court appearances, counsel clients and prepare documents under Aschemann’s supervision. After an initial intake interview with clients, students will conduct interviews, prepare drafts and review them with clients, execute documents and answer questions clients might have. Aschemann noted that these interactions allow students to hone fundamental skills including time management, attention to detail and effective listening.
Students will also meet with clients in their homes and hospitals, if needed.
“The value to the students is they get real-world contact with these clients, and they are able to experience all that goes with that,” Aschemann said.
Aschemann is in his third semester at the law school and credited the work of Rebecca O’Neill, emerita law school clinical professor with the Civil Practice Clinic, which also consists of a juvenile justice clinic to assist children in case of abuse and neglect.
The legal clinic now has about 400 cases a year, and Aschemann hopes the clinic will be able to assist at least 40 veterans a year. Aschemann said the clinic will continue to provide consultation on veterans’ benefits, and he plans to visit veterans service organizations to discuss the new program. Grant funds will cover expenses such as travel, staff assistance and filing fees, where necessary.
Access to justice
The SIU School of Law was one of four in the state to receive funding for the IBF’s new Law School Legal Clinic Grant program. Aschemann noted that one program’s primary tenets is access to justice for underrepresented groups.
“The IBF recognizes the crucial role law schools play in educating and training law students to become the future of the legal profession while meeting the legal needs of the most vulnerable members of the Illinois community,” said Stacey Weiler, IBF’s director of grants and access to justice program. “This partnership with SIU helps broaden the reach of the IBF’s statewide impact, and we are proud to help create the capacity of the legal clinic and students to provide civil legal services to veterans throughout Southern Illinois this year.”
For more information on the program or assistance, call the Civil Practice Clinic at 800-673-6130.