“I grew up in Nebraska and Colorado, and completed my undergrad at the University of Montana. I then served as an engineer officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and led a 150-soldier engineer company in Afghanistan and Kuwait from 2017-2018. My experiences in the military, and more recently as a state regulator, drive me to advocate for the people most impacted by law and policy. Berkeley’s reputation as a place for big ideas and people that want to make a difference made this the right law school for me.
Serving on the board of a Bay-Area LGBTQ+ non-profit for the past three years taught me the importance of visibility and representation. Amidst the ever-growing divide we’ve seen between the military and the broader public, veterans have the unique ability to build better understanding of the military within our communities and shape policy making. Within the Veteran community itself, doing pro bono work with Legal Obstacles Veterans Encounter (LOVE), one of the student-initiated legal services project at Berkeley Law, allows us to support the veterans most impacted by current and past U.S. policies. Many, like myself, do not fit the idea most people or even government agencies have of what a veteran is, and so don’t always understand how policies affect us.
Servicemembers will sacrifice everything to accomplish the mission, but often ask for little or nothing even when we need it the most. During discharge upgrade clinics, LOVE participants work with attorneys to help veterans upgrade their discharges so that they can access life changing benefits, like healthcare, that they earned through their service. LOVE also gave me experience working directly with attorneys and clients during my first semester of law school. Although you do not have to be a veteran to join, I found that LOVE was a great way to connect with my fellow veterans at Berkeley Law as well.
‘Take care of your soldiers and your career will take care of itself’ is phrase young Army leaders are often told. I believe that when doing pro bono and public interest work, this phrase reminds us to stay focused on serving our clients and making a difference, which helps us build a career in the process.
When policies change, specifically those policies that determine who can join the military and how they serve, it leaves behind those who served under previous policies and find themselves unable to access benefits as a result. In the time since I joined ROTC to the day I left the military, we saw the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, an end to the ban on women serving in combat career fields and secured the rights of transgender troops to serve openly. Servicemembers’ immigration rights and the mental healthcare crisis among servicemembers and veterans are just a few other examples of the work that remains to be done.
From the LOVE SLP to the Veterans Law Practicum, Berkeley Law and the Pro Bono Program support us in making sure that these veterans are not left behind.”
A LOVE leader wrote commending Caity’s pro bono efforts, “Caity has been an integral part of Legal Obstacles Veterans Encounter (LOVE). As an Army veteran and 1L, Caity sets a great example and just participated in her first clinic assisting veteran clients with our partner organization Swords to Plowshares. We want to highlight Caity’s combination of lived experience and willingness to apply that experience to serve the underprivileged.
L.O.V.E.’s purpose is to provide support for veterans to overcome legal obstacles. This objective covers a wide variety of legal areas governed by several different entities, namely the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and state and local agencies. LOVE welcomes all students, regardless of whether they served in the military, as long as they are committed to serving the underprivileged. Current LOVE members include JD students from all three classes as well as many LLM students.”
For more information, please contact the student leaders at LOVE_SLP@berkeley.edu.