Published on April 16, 2024 by Sofia Paglioni  
C VETS clinic volunteers DR04152024374

Samford University Cumberland School of Law’s Veterans Legal Assistance Clinic (C-VETS), which was founded in the fall of 2020, provides free legal assistance to veterans and their families across the state of Alabama. Since its inception, 62 volunteer law students have served more than 600 veterans, including 239 in the 2023-24 year alone.

Through the clinic, students not only get to assist veterans with various legal needs, they get to hear veterans’ incredible stories. Tamar Dennis, a third-year law student has felt the impact of this clinic in her own life. Dennis reflected, “I had a fantastic opportunity to meet one remarkable man, a brave Vietnam veteran who gave so much to this nation. While serving, he sustained severe injuries when his aircraft was hit by enemy fire and crashed. It was an honor to serve him. Drafting his will to ensure that his property is distributed to his adult children, per his wishes, was one of the highlights of this semester. I am grateful for the opportunity to serve our veteran community through Cumberland’s C-VETS clinic. They are our ultimate heroes.”

The clinic allows students to practice their interpersonal communication skills while forging long-lasting connections with the veterans they assist. Katie Philyaw, a third-year student volunteer, recently formed a friendship with a veteran she helped. She said, “This semester, I was able to help a veteran prepare for a court hearing. At the hearing, her case was resolved, and she was so thankful for the clinic that she wanted an invite to my graduation. The C-VETS clinic gives us the opportunity to build trust with our clients and help them with their real-life issues.”

Kevin Patton, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former A-6 pilot and shareholder at Maynard Nexsen, succeeded the late Judge John Carroll, JD ’74, founder of the clinic, as the clinic’s supervising attorney. Emphasizing the impact of this clinic, Patton said, “I learned of the tremendous impact that C-VETS was making in the lives of veterans and their families who could not afford an attorney. For these veterans, even a minor legal issue could be insurmountable without assistance and trigger a cascading series of problems. I’ve seen the timely intervention of the clinic’s bright, creative and compassionate student advocates clear a path for countless veterans, allowing them and their families to prosper. Judge Carroll’s passing in August of 2023 marked the end of an era, but his spirit of service continues to guide C-VETS student advocates as they impact the lives of our veterans and their families.”

In April, Patton hosted a recognition ceremony in appreciation of the students’ hard work and dedication. Each student received a personalized flag and eagle sculpture sponsored by the Central Alabama Veterans Collaborative (CAVC). Additionally, representatives from CAVC presented Patton and the students an American flag to display at the law school, with an official certificate verifying the flag had previously flown over the U.S. Capitol.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.