Attorney Ava Landers browses through the list of students seeking legal advice. Next up: a student wanting legal consultation, because their roommate ate their cookie.
ASUCD contracts with an attorney to offer registered undergraduate students free legal phone consultation, a service that seems unknown to many students. Every quarter, each student can get up to 15 minutes of free consultation. In some cases, students may schedule another 15 minutes in the same quarter if needed.
Paid for out of ASUCD student fees, the service has been around as far back as the 1980s. Students can go to the ASUCD office at 347 Memorial Union, show their student ID card and make an appointment for their free consultation.
The issues students want advice for vary, with about 85 percent pertaining to tenant-landlord issues, according to Landers.
“A lot of the time, it’s roommate issues and housing issues,” said Kathy Wilton, ASUCD Student Services Office Manager. “Those are the most prominent things. Every once in a while, you have someone who got a DUI or they got into a fight with somebody.”
Of course, occasionally, Landers said that students want to consult with her about their roommates eating their food.
“It’s a real waste of time, but you’d be surprised,” she said.
However, Landers has also dealt with more serious issues.
“I had a student who had gotten into a physical altercation with his roommate,” Landers said. “He was charged with a very serious felony. For something like that, I would always meet with them in person.”
Landers has been working with ASUCD since the late 1990s, conducting phone consultations three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
After students make their appointment, the list is sent to Landers on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday nights.
“Because I’m in court all the time, sometimes I can’t call them at the appointed time, but by the end of the day, I get to everybody on the list,” Landers said.
Few students either use or know about the legal consultation service, with only around six 15-minute consultations scheduled per week during a school year. During the summer, business is even slower. The list rarely fills up, according to Landers.
“It’s not really advertised,” said Kimberly Garrett, a fourth-year evolution, ecology and biodiversity major, who has used the service. “It’s not something that if you didn’t go looking for it, you’d know about.”
Students are not timed or strictly limited to their 15 minutes. If further help is needed, they can schedule another 15 minutes at another time. Sometimes, depending on her schedule, Landers said she consults with the student for as long as an hour.
But not all students find the service helpful.
Garrett sought legal advice regarding adoption issues, and ultimately called it no more than a referral service.
“You put your name down, and then you have to wait for the person to call you back. The person who called me back was in a hurry. So she was rushed, and she was like, ‘Well, what do you need?’ It was pointless,” Garrett recounted. “She just pretty much said, ‘My recommendation of course is to get a lawyer.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, I already knew that.’ There was no advice given basically. It was just 15 minutes of me explaining what my situation was.”
Garrett only used the service once.
“Many law firms in Sacramento offer free consultations,” Garrett said. “You are probably better off looking there.”
Still, Wilton maintains that the service is underutilized, and students don’t realize that not many people can get the opportunity to ask legal questions with a professional attorney for free.
“I think [students] do feel it’s helpful,” Wilton said. “When she’s able to contact them, she does answer their questions. I know that sometimes they’ll come back and make another appointment for a follow up.”
For students looking to get their free 15-minute consultation, bring your student ID and make an appointment at 347 Memorial Union.
JOYCE BERTHELSEN can be reached at email@example.com.