Free legal advice part of fee increase

by publicationarchive

It’s very expensive to attend college, and throwing legal trouble on top of that could lead to absolute financial crisis. With lawyers seemingly price-gouging clients for merely waiting for a consultation, it’s tough to not get nickel and dimed before a case ever makes it to court.However, Associated Students at San Diego State is looking to provide students with legal advice at a price they can afford: free. Part of the proposed student fee referendum calls for the establishment of a new student legal consultation and referral service on campus. The service will offer free or low-cost legal services for handling traffic tickets, problems with landlords and financial advice.”It would be a call-in service where students would have a number they could call into to get any sort of legal advice they needed, ranging from housing or rental agreement disputes to legal battles, DUIs, will and property related issues,” said Jeremy Elrich, A.S. vice president of external affairs. “They would be able to speak to a qualified legal representative and if they want to set up a meeting, they could.”Currently, full-time A.S. employees pay a monthly fee to have access to a call-in number for free legal and financial advice, according to A.S. Vice President of University Affairs Michael Matthews. “It’s been working well for them,” Matthews said. “So we’ve been talking to that company (CLC Incorporated) about doing it with SDSU students. It’s so a wider range of students can take advantage of it.”Elrich said that SDSU currently does not offer any sort of legal consultation to its students. He said that other universities, such as California State University Fullerton and CSU San Bernardino, have established well-run legal services for their students. He wants to base the proposed service at SDSU off those models.”It’s important that we offer this because students shouldn’t be going and looking at other places for (legal advice),” Elrich said. “It should be offered on campus. Students have to know that it’s reliable, that they’re getting the best information and they’re getting help when they need it.”The way the service is proposed, according to Matthews, is that part of the fee increase will allow students a free call 24-7 to a certified lawyer who can determine whether or not a particular offense requires legal representation. From there, the student can either choose to work with that lawyer or be referred to another lawyer, both at a discounted rate.”Pretty much everyone can take advantage of it,” Matthews said. “A lot of students are interested, especially with the $1000 fines.”Matthews is referring to the $1000 noise violations issued for loud disturbances in College Area neighborhoods, which began as a pilot program last April and has expanded to other San Diego neighborhoods as of December.”You can appeal (the fine) and students have asked questions about how that procedure works,” Matthews said. “They want to know what their rights are and if this is worth taking to the next level. Those are the types of questions lawyers can answer.”If the referendum passes, Matthews said the service would start in the fall. Students can vote today and tomorrow.