Legal Services of Greater Miami
Global Studies '09
When Liam McGivern graduated from University of Washington Bothell in 2009, he knew one thing. “I knew that I wanted to do something working on behalf of marginalized people, but I wasn’t really sure what form that would take,” he says. With a major in global studies and a minor in human rights, he set off for law school thinking he would eventually work on international issues.
But while studying at the University of Miami School of Law on a public interest scholarship, he quickly discovered that many people closer to home also need help. “I saw how much need there was in the local community and so my focus shifted from international to local advocacy,” he says.
McGivern began volunteering at Legal Services of Greater Miami where he started out in the military law unit. The first case he worked on involved a marine who suffered a brain injury while serving in Iraq. While recovering, the soldier was Other Than Honorably discharged from the military after his behavior failed to meet military standards. The brain injury was not considered a factor in the soldier’s discharge status.
McGivern soon learned that there are many soldiers who experience brain injuries or have undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and are similarly discharged from the military. “They are permanently denied benefits in some cases,” he says. “I saw a great injustice that there wasn’t enough being done to change how these soldiers were perceived and that was coupled with the discovery of what a widespread problem this is.”
McGivern, now 28 years old, will spend the next two years working at Legal Services of Greater Miami on these “ discharge upgrade” cases. He has received a prestigious Skadden Fellowship award to do this work and just graduated magna cum laude from law school.
His former UW Bothell professor Julie Shayne recalls McGivern ’s love of learning and commitment to hard work. “I believe Liam went to law school because he thinks law is the best way to advocate for social justice,” she says. “In other words, he sees his legal training and degree as a form of advocacy; his degree is to be shared rather than used solely for his own personal financial success.”