Law Students

UNT Dallas College of Law Graduate Completes 800 Volunteer Hours during Law School
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John Vanbuskirk

Summary: A recent UNT Dallas College of Law graduate has 800 volunteer hours and is the oldest graduate of the inaugural class at 71-years-old.

UNT Dallas College of Law opened as an unaccredited law school in 2014. By 2017, the law school had received full accreditation. Their first inaugural class was filled with a variety of students from different backgrounds. One of these students was John VanBuskirk.


VanBuskirk was in his late 60’s, enjoying retirement, when he noticed that a new law school was opening in Dallas. He decided he might as well apply, and he was accepted. Four years later, the now–71-year-old is a member of the State Bar of Texas. He graduated from the law school in January as the oldest member of the inaugural class. This wasn’t the only thing that set him apart from his classmates. VanBuskirk had 800 hours of volunteer work.

VanBuskirk had logged 800 hours of pro bono work, according to WCNC. He did this by volunteering with the law school’s pro bono clinics and with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. The state awarded him with two awards for his pro bono work. He made the Dean’s List four times, graduating with the 3.21 GPA.

His resume also include other notable accomplishments such as 25 years with the Army where he was able to retire at the rank of Major. His first experience with the Army was as a medical helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He then returned as an officer in 2006 at a U.S. hospital in Germany during the Iraq war.

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His first taste of the law was when he was able to join the Judge Advocate General (JAG) legal program when he was in the military. He ended up not meeting the requirements to join so when he saw another opportunity to try out the law again, VanBuskirk jumped at it.

As his wife reminded him, “You’re not getting any younger,” VanBuskirk was excited to be doing something. He said, “I guess it falls under the category of different strokes for different folks.” While some enjoy fishing and relaxing during retirement, VanBuskirk wanted to be active in something.

He added, “First of all, if I’m going to get up at four in the morning, it will not be for fishing. It will be for something else. Second of all, it would drive me just nuts. It would just drive me absolutely batty to sit around and do nothing.”

And this is exactly what VanBuskirk got from the new career path. He would wake up at 3 am to study for a couple hours. He then would take a quick 30 to 60 minute nap around 5:30 am to recharge and prepare for the rest of the day. He would be in class at 8:30 until 11:30 am. He would then take his lunch to the Dallas Bar Association building until 1 pm. From 1 pm to 5 pm, VanBuskirk was involved in an internship. From 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm a few times a month he would volunteer at Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program clinics. He was then in bed by 10 pm.

During the summer breaks, VanBuskirk interned with Legal Aid of Northwest Texas, the 191st District Court, and the Wake County Public Defender’s Office in Raleigh, N.C. He said, “Anybody could think about what you’re supposed to do in law school so you think about, ‘OK, I’m going to have to study hard, study long hours and be committed just to the law school. That’s correct. Once you get into law school, anything that doesn’t fit into that thought pattern, you need to throw out.”

VanBuskirk credits his military background for making it easier to adjust to a strict schedule. “I’ve got zero problem with getting up at 3 o’clock in the morning, studying for 2-3 hours, getting another hour of sleep, then getting up for the day and going at it.”

He particularly enjoyed his volunteer experience. Since he was just a law student, he spent most of this time interviewing prospective clients, filling out questionnaires on their situation. He explained, “I had a woman come up and hug me four times just because I listened to her. No one would listen to her. It just makes you feel good that the little people – there needs to be an advocate for them. I think that I just kind of need to be a part of that. I just can’t turn a blind eye to that.”

VanBuskirk is now exploring career options, including in the pro bono sector.

Do you think pro bono service completed during law school should have an incentive towards student loan forgiveness? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about outstanding law school students and graduates, read these articles:



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