Student Legal Services is there “just in case”

Alex Russell

It’s just another $7.

Throw in tuition, parking permits, other fees and all the other big numbers on students’ bills and it’s easy for them to not give the $7 legal services fee a second thought.

But that money actually goes toward something that, should the need arise, could save students a lot more than their initial investment.

This fee was instituted last spring semester when on-campus legal services became available to Kent State students.

Undergraduate Student Senate proposed that students have access to legal counsel after hearing that other universities provided such on-campus services. After researching to see which law firm would be most suitable for students, USS decided on Student Legal Services, Inc., a non-profit law firm that services eight other universities, including Ohio University, Bowling Green State University and Wright State University.

After approval from undergraduate students, the Kent State Board of Trustees last year entered a contract with SLS.

According to the SLS Schedule of Benefits, “The purpose of Student Legal Services, Inc. is to assist students in identifying and resolving legal problems so that they may make the most of their educational opportunities while attending KSU.”

SLS provides legal advice, counsel and representation in cases such as landlord and tenant disputes, misdemeanor crimes, consumer transactions, domestic problems and other miscellaneous matters.

These are all legal issues that don’t involve the university, however. SLS cannot cover any legal disputes between a student and the university.

Other restrictions include copyright and patent issues, felony charges, Federal court actions such as bankruptcy, and civil cases involving more than $20,000 in damages.

Despite these limitations, SLS has assisted many students with legal issues.

“Most of the issues that are of concern to students are ones that we do cover,” Senior Staff Attorney Carol Crimi said. “Our aim is to serve students where they could not otherwise get legal assistance.”

Since SLS began servicing Kent State, the firm has served in 293 cases, involving 221 undergraduate students and 72 graduate students. From January to July of this year, SLS saved students $11,998.95, according to data collected by Jamison Offineer, SLS paralegal and office administrator.

Offineer said he expects more business this fall semester, because a lot of students were unaware of the services when they first began last spring.

“We found that it’s been kind of tough trying to figure out how to get the word out to everybody,” Offineer said. “It’s been kind of difficult. We’re learning though. We’re just brand new and trying to figure out the best sources, the best places to go. We really want students to come in and utilize our services.”

Dean of Students Greg Jarvie and Associate Dean Sheryl Smith have been working closely with SLS to get the program off its feet.

“We think (SLS) provides an excellent option for students,” Smith said. “It’s a great way for students to seek legal assistance. It’s certainly a very economical way to acquire it.”

Students are alerted of the $7 SLS fee on the Account Summary page of Web for Students and also on their schedule bills. The fee is automatically added to students’ tuition bills unless the student chooses to opt out of the fee, which makes them ineligible to use SLS. If students choose not to use the services, they must opt out each semester they are enrolled at the university and may do so on Web for Students.

Although many students won’t use the services, to some, the $7 fee is well worth it.

Crimi said SLS just completed a $4,500 case where the student didn’t have to pay any extra costs.

“The majority of students won’t use our services,” Crimi said, “but they have the security of knowing it is here if they do need it.”

Contact Communications and Information reporter Alex Russell at [email protected].