UC Berkeley School of Law students will lead the Legal Obstacles Veterans Encounter, or LOVE, project, a pro bono law initiative dedicated to providing accessible legal resources and protections to veterans in the Bay Area.
One of campus’s 40 Student-Initiated Legal Services projects, LOVE was started by Tyler Baylis, Matt Sardo and Blaine Manire, campus graduate students and U.S. military veterans. Baylis, a former U.S. Navy officer, first pitched the project idea to campus law lecturer Rose Goldberg in fall 2020, according to Baylis.
“The Legal Obstacles Veterans Encounter (LOVE) student project at Berkeley Law grew out of the enthusiasm and energy of students in my Veterans Law course at the Law School,” Goldberg said in an email.
Goldberg, alongside campus law lecturer Olivia Cole, will serve as the project’s supervisor in fall 2021.
As of now, the team of students will be partnering with Swords to Plowshares, a Bay Area nonprofit, to produce a series of self-help guides educating homeless and low-income veterans about available legal resources. Baylis noted that complex legal jargon and changing regulations often hinder access to available government services.
LOVE aims to bridge the disconnect. According to Baylis, the team’s research focuses on executing simple steps that will enable veteran populations to assess the details of their case before hiring an attorney.
LOVE, coined by campus alum Joe St. Clair, reflects a passion for the veteran community and encourages nonmilitary-affiliated students to engage in veteran issues as well, according to Baylis.
“It was more than just helping those who are vulnerable,” Sardo said. “It’s also spreading a positive message to Berkeley Law students in the University of California population … and trying to be a diplomat of veterans to law students and to law professors.”
The research draws upon a variety of legal fields, according to Baylis, and adds veteran affairs to the long list of Berkeley Law’s pro bono efforts.
Baylis noted that moving forward, connectivity lies at the forefront of LOVE’s mission.
“Encouraging veterans to trust a new organization is also something we will have to fight,” Baylis said. “Having them feel we can support them in a system, where we as a student organization have very little control over the end result, is probably our biggest challenge.”
In spring 2022, LOVE leaders plan to build their reputation and expand their impact through a legal intake clinic. The new project will feature direct communication between law students and veteran clients to assess a wider range of cases.