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Free legal service aims to help students
Published 6/26/2013 6:00:00 AM
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WSU Student Legal Services (SLS) aims to increase its visibility on campus this summer before they hit the ground running in the fall.

Chris Morgan, director of SLS, said the program offers 30 minute legal consultations with a licensed attorney and deals with legal issues such as traffic violations, DUIs, MIPs and landlord-tenant disputes.

“There are students on campus who know about us, but don’t know exactly what we provide,” Morgan said. “There are not a lot of places that provide free legal advice.”

To build a future with incoming freshman, Morgan said the program will start to market and promote their services at Alive! orientations.

Morgan said there are great opportunities to join SLS, especially for criminal justice, political science and law students.

Morgan said the goals of SLS in the next year will include educating students about law school, including the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), expenses and scholarships.

The SLS will be more of a Pre-Law Advising and Resource Center, he said. In terms of marketing the SLS, Morgan said they will have to be creative in their efforts and work with Student Involvement.

“It’s important for students to know their rights,” he said. “Even if we cannot help someone, we want to point them in the right direction.”

Wynn Mosman, the attorney working at SLS, said there was a period of time they could only serve a limited number students by making appointments. However, with cell phones and e-mails, he can deliver more information to them at a quicker pace.

“We serve far more students now than we use to,” Mosman said. “Quite often, students prefer to make a phone call and get information that way.”

Mosman said he would like some way for students to have a tenants’ database to look at landlord ratings around campus. He said he mentioned the database to the university a long time ago, but received a cold reception.

Mosman said what troubles him the most is that students contact him in the middle of a conflict with a landlord, and know nothing about the landlord or contract.

“Tenants sometimes are not interpreting contracts correctly,” he said. “It’s essential to know your rights because it could prevent a lot of problems.”

Since SLS is an entity of WSU, Morgan said the program does not intervene with conflicts between students, university faculty members or the administration.

SLS also does not provide legal assistance over additional conflicts such as immigration, maritime taxes and patent laws, but will try to help students contact local attorneys, he said.

Dan Maher, coordinator for student and organizational development and advisor to SLS, said there is an outreach issue preventing students from learning about the services.

“A lot of students find themselves in some trouble and they don’t know why,” Maher said. “You really want to spend your time and energy with the sophomores and juniors who think they’re pretty invincible.”

However, Maher said he likes the idea of expanding the resources of the program to provide more law school information and not just be a center for advice.

The program offers a four-credit course and volunteer internships to students from any academic background, Morgan said.

Maher said interns and volunteers working with SLS have to be on top of everything and maintain their professionalism.

Clients who work with the SLS can fill out evaluation forms where people can document the program’s service, he said.

“If people are sloppy and not paying attention to their clients, that affects the quality of service,” Maher said.

Speaking with SLS will benefit students because consulting legal advice outside of the program will cost a chunk of change for many people, Maher said.

“The goal is to reach out to people before they can get into trouble,” Maher said. “We want SLS to be a more preventive thing than a reactive thing.”

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