Students provide legal support to military community

Florida Coastal School of Law students Rolando Rodriquez and Mike Cintron could best be described as men on a mission. Their goal? To help military reservists at Naval Air Station Jacksonville get their legal needs squared away before deployment.

The program is helping bridge the gap between the city’s legal community and the military in Jacksonville, which boasts two naval air stations.

As a naval reservist, Rodriquez was familiar with the legal needs facing local military. However, his decision to help meet those needs took shape after having conversations with his reserve unit following his first year at Florida Coastal.

“I realized how much legal help our reservists and veterans need prior to deploying overseas — whenever a unit deploys, there are many things that need to happen, and I would like to lessen the burden that most of these service members have to go through,” Rodriguez explained. “Family planning is a part of Navy life. Naval reservists have to have family plans in hand prior to deploying ó I figured if we lent a helping hand with some of the basic legal issues now, the reservists could get one more check mark done well in advance.”

Rodriguez and Cintron helped found the Military Law Society at the law school. Cintron is currently the organization’s president. The group has brainstormed about different legal issues that Navy reservists face and has worked together to find solutions. Drafting service members’ wills, for example, is one way the group has assisted the mission. The undertaking has been supported by local private attorneys, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid and members of Naval Construction Battalion 14.

Assisting the military with its legal challenges is a growing need, Rodriguez said. Since Jacksonville has such a dominant military presence, he believes local attorneys should be increasingly familiar with issues involving veteran rights, UCMJ, military retirees and TriCare.

“It will be a lot of hard work, but I believe the results warrant such an effort,” Rodriguez said. “This initiative not only provides students with a hands-on experience with clients, but also exposes the students to the legal needs of our service members.”

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For photos of the students providing assistance, please click here. Photos by Perry Bindelglass