The University of Georgia School of Law is establishing a Veterans Legal Services Clinic funded by a lead gift from renowned trial attorney and alumnus James E. “Jim” Butler Jr. in memory of his father, Lt. Cmdr. James E. Butler Sr., who was a fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Butler Sr. was also the grandfather of James E. “Jeb” Butler III, a 2008 graduate of the law school.
The new clinic will provide veterans in Georgia with legal assistance they might not otherwise have access to or be able to afford, with particular regard to denied or deferred claims before the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. It also includes an educational scholarship component.
“Dad always taught us that ‘anything worth doing was worth doing right,’ ” Butler said. “This clinic will help us do right by those who have served our nation and who deserve to live a life of dignity, autonomy and stability. If we can do that, we will make an incredible difference in the quality of life for these honorable men and women.”
Overseen by a clinic director serving as a managing attorney, the unit will be staffed by law students who will work directly with veterans and their dependents to ensure access to benefits and services, especially for those with mental or physical disabilities resulting from their time in the military. The students who participate in the clinic will have a tangible impact on the lives of these veterans and their families while receiving real-world experience that will better equip them for their careers.
School of Law Dean Peter B. “Bo” Rutledge said this contribution is a clear demonstration of Butler’s steadfast commitment to the betterment of the legal profession and the state of Georgia as a whole.
“We are grateful for Jim’s willingness to invest in this new clinic, which will make a real difference for the veterans we serve and provide our students with a truly meaningful opportunity,” he said.
Four members of the law school’s Board of Visitors have joined Butler in support of the new clinic including Butler’s longtime law partner Joel O. Wooten Jr., Kenneth M. Henson Jr., G. Sanders Griffith III and Pete Robinson. Wooten, Henson and Griffith are UGA School of Law graduates.
“The Veterans Legal Services Clinic builds upon the law school’s commitment to supporting those who have served our nation,” Rutledge said. “I am pleased that funding for the clinic will also provide a $5,000 scholarship match for two veterans studying at the School of Law each year.”
This funding will be paired with “match” money received through the Department of Veterans Affairs Yellow Ribbon GI Education Enhancement Program.
To be based on the UGA campus in Athens, the clinic will serve veterans and their dependents across Georgia and is scheduled to begin operations during the summer of 2018.
A 28-member committee—composed of veterans; members of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Athens Veterans Affairs Clinic and the Athens Veterans Court; five UGA departments; legal professionals and policymakers—worked on the proposal for the clinic for approximately two years. This committee was headed by Randy Beck, holder of the Marshall Chair of Constitutional Law at the School of Law.