After serving two enlistments in the United States Army and earning his J.D. from Golden Gate University School of Law, Dan Devoy wanted to advocate on behalf of veterans.
“The bar tells us to aspire to do pro bono work and I chose to serve military veterans. I helped those who were discriminated against while they were in the military usually on the basis race, sex, gender, gender orientation, or sexuality.”
When Rachel Van Cleave, then Dean of GGU Law, learned of Dan’s pro bono work—assisting veteran clients with discharge upgrades—she consulted with him on the subject, an interest she shared. Once GGU Law launched the Veterans’ Legal Advocacy Center (VLAC), the first Center of its kind on the campus of a law school in Northern California, Dan was brought on as its founding director.
Today, Dan serves as an associate professor while continuing to direct the Center that provides pro bono legal services to veterans seeking health care, compensation for service-related injuries, and discharge upgrades. VLAC aims to assist the most vulnerable veteran populations and those individuals least connected to existing service networks—recently returned, women, non-citizen, LGBT, and elderly veterans. Clients are low-income, indigent military veterans residing in the Bay Area. As the Center’s director, Dan oversees all active caseloads, working closely with students volunteering in the Center.
“Since the Center’s inception nine years ago, we’ve collected over a million dollars in benefits for veterans and upgraded over 70 veterans’ discharges to honorable. Hundreds of students have acted as staff attorneys in our clinic, personally represented the veterans, and made the arguments against the government before a judge.”
The Center provides an important opportunity to students who take what they are learning about procedure, criminal law, discrimination law, and constitutional law and apply it to live cases. Through the Center they are able to work as lawyers before graduating law school which, Dan says, makes a valuable difference.
“The Center teaches students how to be attorneys,” commented Dan. “They can take the skill set that they learn in the Center and directly apply it to the work of helping someone who is being evicted from their house, helping someone who is the victim of domestic violence, or helping someone who wants to file a lawsuit because they were injured in a car accident. Whatever they are learning it’s a transferable skill to go into that interest area they want to pursue.”
In the classroom, Dan has taught courses on evidence, professional responsibility, civil procedure, administrative law, and internet defamation. He brings in real-life examples from his legal practice which benefits both students who have recently graduated college and those students who have been out of college for 20 years. Dan also serves as faculty advisor to the Latino Law Student Association and participates in student events.
“At GGU Law, we have the best students. They’re passionate and dedicated. They are grateful for the opportunity and are eager to succeed. They are really wonderful students.”