By Lori Atherton
September 25, 2017
Matt Andres, ’02, is drawn to helping vulnerable populations. As a professor at various law clinics in Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan, he’s helped domestic violence victims and elderly victims of financial exploitation. Now, Andres is helping military veterans through his new role as the director of Michigan Law’s Veterans Legal Clinic, and he couldn’t be happier.
“Teaching at Michigan has been my dream job,” Andres said. “I have always had a great deal of regard for this institution; the three years I spent at Michigan were some of the best times of my life. Michigan is a great place to be, and I’ve joined a fantastic group of clinicians, who are highly regarded not just within these walls, but throughout the country.”
Andres, who joined Michigan Law in August, co-teaches the Veterans Legal Clinic with Yulanda Curtis, a clinical fellow. They supervise 10 students whose 20 cases involve family, housing, and consumer law matters. Andres hopes that in time, the clinic will be able to take on 30 to 35 cases each semester, in order to help more veterans with their legal needs and to expose students to a greater variety of civil cases. “I’m excited about working in the clinic and seeing where it goes,” Andres said. “I hope to be here for a long time directing it, and I’d like our clinic to be known in the state and nationally as a leader in veterans’ issues.”
Andres was interested in pursuing public interest work when he entered Michigan Law as a student, but he wasn’t sure where that interest would lead him. After graduating from the Law School—where he took the General Clinic (now the Civil-Criminal Litigation Clinic)—Andres worked as a litigation associate at Foley & Lardner in Milwaukee. Nearly three years later, he left Foley to join the Milwaukee District Attorney’s Office as an assistant district attorney. “It wasn’t financially lucrative, but the work was more satisfying for me,” Andres said. From there, he became an assistant prosecutor at the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office in Pontiac, Michigan, which led to teaching jobs at the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic and Cooley Law School’s Family Law Assistance Project, where he represented victims of domestic violence, the disabled, and other underrepresented groups in family law matters.
Prior to joining the Veterans Legal Clinic, Andres taught for four years at the University of Illinois College of Law, where he started the Elder Financial Justice Clinic (EFJC). It was the first law school clinic in the country to focus on financial exploitation of the elderly, Andres noted. A one-man show, he was responsible for building the clinic from the ground up, which included developing the curriculum and client base, as well as fundraising. “There was certainly a need for the clinic, and I spent a lot of time crisscrossing the state of Illinois, letting people know about the program,” Andres said. He also worked on legislative solutions related to the issue of elder financial exploitation, which resulted in his proposing and getting passed a law that gave elder financial abuse victims in Illinois a civil cause of action that allows them to recover treble damages and attorney’s fees from their abusers.
Andres hopes to incorporate family fraud cases, which he worked on in the EFJC, into the Veterans Legal Clinic. “Family fraud is a big issue, especially with seniors, so there is a need for this type of work,” Andres said. “I have the expertise that I would like to bring to bear here, and I think they would be good cases for the students.”
Andres said he enjoys teaching because his “impact is magnified” by helping both clients and students. “The combination of representing people who are in desperate need of help, and teaching students to be excellent advocates for their clients and helping them learn the value of public interest work, is rewarding,” Andres said. “I also enjoy getting to know about individual people’s lives. It gives me a better understanding of my clients and the world we live in, and gives meaning to the work we do.”
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