This article originally appeared in the Oklahoma County Bar Association Briefcase. Law students in photo assisting the soldier are Jared Harsha and Daniel Sloat; the soldier is PFC (Private First Class) Harrack.
University of Oklahoma College of Law students provided Pro Bono services to Oklahoma National Guard men and women recently returning from the Ukraine. These soldiers had been deployed in that region as a part of a rotating U.S. Military Training element.
The students, Daniel Sloat, Katie Wilmes, Jared Harsha, and Stephan Owings spent a Saturday advising soldiers and taking data for follow-up by Oklahoma volunteer lawyers. The students participated in an Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) sponsored program called “Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes.”
The OU College of Law has asked their law students do at least 50 hours of Pro Bono work as a part of their commitment to community while studying at OU Law. As long as they are supervised by an Oklahoma licensed attorney, there are a wide range of options for student Pro Bono.
The “Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes” program provides many opportunities for law students to assist soldiers, veterans, and their families. They can directly assist attorneys working on cases, they can do research, they can screen clients, and they can provide administrative legal support. At this Yellow Ribbon event, the students were assisting Assistant Dean Stanley Evans with interviewing soldiers with legal issues that have come up during their deployment to the Ukraine and concerns presented by their family members while they were overseas. The kinds of problems the students assisted on included:
- Return of stolen property.
- Child visitation, custody, and adoption.
- Retention of employment benefits while deployed overseas.
- Change of divorce conditions.
- Management of a trust.
- Clearing the property title on a proposed mortgage agreement.
- Contract dispute on the repair of a classic automobile.
In addition to providing service to the service members, the students got actual experience in working directly with clients and crafting solutions to their issues.
The Yellow Ribbon events are a part of the Oklahoma National Guard’s deployment and post-deployment preparations to prepare soldiers for their assignments and to re-integrate them into society once they return. The free assistance provided by Oklahoma Lawyers for America’s Heroes helps them with any legal issues that might come up that are not handled by their JAG officers. If the issue cannot be resolved during the initial interview, the case is referred out to one of the 724 attorneys who volunteer their Pro Bono services from around the state of Oklahoma. These lawyers and law students have helped over 4,332 Heroes since the program started in 2010 and have provided over $2,796,000 in free legal services.
The Pro Bono Program at the OU College of Law is managed by Ms. Rebecca Hamrin.
Soldiers and veterans needing assistance may apply at (800) 522-2065 or (405) 416-7000 or request assistance here. Attorneys wishing to volunteer may use the same number.
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What led you to OU Law? I have wanted to go to law school since I was a teenager. I was active in speech contests and enjoyed making oral presentations. When I was in high school, I would go downtown and watch some of the trials at the courthouse, so, I got acquainted with the courtroom rather early. I obtained a Navy scholarship to go to OU. I was a regular Navy midshipman then I served three years in the far east before coming back to law school. I wanted to attend law school and came back to OU.
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What led you to OU Law? OU Law has been part of my family since the 1920s. My great uncle was Dr. Maurice Merrill, a 1922 graduate of OU Law who then earned a Doctorate in Law from Harvard University in 1925. Merrill taught at OU Law for 30 years, published numerous seminal works in oil and gas law, constitutional law, administrative law and the law of Notice. While still in his twenties, Merrill published the seminal treatise Implied Covenants in Oil and Gas Law, which has been a cornerstone of my cases. In law school, I lived with Uncle Maurice and marveled at his longhand scrawl which was literally final copy in its first draft form. In my mind, he will always be ten times the lawyer that I ever became.