The School of Law will debut its first online-only course this summer, a veterans law course that is the first of its kind in the U.S.
Law students can earn three credits for enrolling in and completing “Veterans Law” — or LAW 620LEC — which runs for six weeks beginning May 20. It’s open to law students and students in other majors in Western New York and across the country, as well as lawyers who want to learn more about veterans law, according to Kim Diana Connolly, professor and director of clinical legal education, and vice dean for advocacy and experiential education.
“Veterans Law” is also asynchronous, which means there are no pre-set times students and faculty must be online together, giving students complete flexibility as to when they do their work.
“It is completely on-demand for students. Because we’d like students to connect with colleagues if possible, we’re going to meet twice on Zoom — once at the beginning of the course and once toward the end.” says Connolly. “But if those meetings don’t work for someone because they are working or have other obligations, they can make it up.
“We have designed this course for one reason: People are busy,” she says. “To be able to complete a three-credit course in six weeks is hard, especially fitting it into other opportunities people are taking advantage of in the summer, such as employment or spending time at home for people who live far away from our campus.
“Students can learn the current law in this course, but it’s on their own time. It meets all the requirements for law school credit. But it’s designed to be sensitive to busy learners in terms of their ability to fit it into their schedules.”
“There are a lot of people interested in readiness to do veterans work,” says Anthony J. Kuhn, ’15, co-director of the Veterans Legal Practicum, managing partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC , and an Army Reserve operations NCO at Brigade Headquarters. “Some are law students interested in entering such work full time. And as importantly, there are a lot of people, including those already admitted to practice law, interested in doing it pro bono. “This goes beyond continuing legal education classes; an intense course like this is going to prepare people to do effective work.”
Kuhn notes the high need for lawyers skilled in veterans law.
“This course is focusing on preparing those enrolled to do veterans-specific work, such as discharge upgrades, benefit denial appeals, appeals for service connection and other representation in various specialty courts.”
Connolly says the online course will primarily involve materials compiled and written for this course, since a significant portion of the relevant law has changed since the current books came on the market.
“If an advocate wants to be on the cutting edge, this is the type of course that’s going to get people current,” she says. “It’s offered through SUNY and will touch on some New York State law, but it’s focused on federal law that will apply to anyone around the country who wants to learn about this subject.”
One important feature of “Veterans Law” is a personal class project, Connolly says.
“In addition to becoming prepared through a survey of general veterans law,” she says, “all students will work on a small project on a specific matter of interest to them, and do a deep dive on that project.
“Students will work online in professional learning groups, so they are going to be learning from the professors teaching this course, and also exploring and discussing with their peers, both about the course substance and their own projects.”
The course will feature weekly readings, online content with quizzes, and multiple required posts involving professor and peer interaction, with pre-announced deadlines and posted grading rubrics.
“Veterans Law” will meet all American Bar Association and New York State requirements for law school credit. The course will cover various aspects of law relevant to persons who have served in the Armed Forces, as well as touch on aspects of law relevant to other practices.
“Having learning opportunities that support veterans and service members at the University at Buffalo School of Law was one of my top priorities when coming to the law school,” says Dean Aviva Abramovsky. “I am thrilled about the impact that this new, specialty, online course will have for veterans, locally and across the nation.”