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Law students volunteer to help veterans at StandDown

September 15, 2008
News Photo
Back row (L to R): James Neal, Ed Cox, Zack Brost, Sam Benham; middle row: Erica Nichols, Julia Ofenbakh, Adrienne Boone, Andrea Baca, Laura Barnaby; front row: Prof. Bob Rigg and Meggan Guns.

Ten Drake University law students offered legal assistance to homeless veterans during the Veteran's Administration StandDown last weekend. Bob Rigg, Drake associate professor of law, supervised the students giving legal advice.

Rigg and the students worked at the StandDown for five hours on Saturday, resulting in the addition of 18 new clients for the Drake Legal Clinic.

The StandDown lasted for three days on the grounds of the Iowa Judicial Branch Building near East 14th Street and Court Avenue in Des Moines.

Rigg said there were 200 to 300 veterans who attended the veteran's fair on Saturday.

"We consulted the vets on a variety of issues," Rigg said. "There weren't a lot of criminal issues -- mostly driving, small claims, social security, medical benefits and things along that line."

News Photo
Law student Ed Cox assists a vet at the recent StandDown.

The StandDown also gave homeless veterans the opportunity to register for medical care, social services, clothing and letter-writing services. In addition, this year they also were able to check their public records.

Meggan Guns, a third-year law student, explained that the StandDown was a win-win situation for the students and the vets. She said the students were able to offer legal advice to the veterans, and in return, the students gained valuable experience for their careers.

"As student attorneys, we were exposed to issues that many of us hadn't dealt with before," Guns said. "And the people we helped were so grateful to have someone listen to them."

The first StandDown was organized in 1988 by a group of Vietnam veterans in San Diego. Between 1994 and 2000, StandDowns reached more than 200,000 veterans and their family members.