Student Legal Services Clinic opens Friday

Lashana Harney

After years of planning and preparation, WKU’s Student Legal Services Clinic opens Friday.

Julie Shadoan, professor of paralegal studies and director of the clinic, said some organizational changes slowed the process of starting the clinic, but the pace picked up a year and a half ago.

“Realistically, I’ve been working on it off and on for four years,” Shadoan said. 

The clinic is located in Tate Page Hall, Room 252. The clinic will be available for all WKU students, including part-time students, transfer students, international students and students on regional campuses. 

The clinic offers advice, counseling, representation and referrals.

Madisonville graduate student Kelsey Luttrell, who works at the clinic, said the office covers a wide range of areas, including family law, traffic violations and landlord/tenant disputes.

Luttrell said since the Student Legal Services Clinic is new, she fears students will not know that legal services are available on campus.

“My biggest goal is that every student on campus will know about us and will be able to utilize our services,” she said. 

Luttrell said she doesn’t want students to be afraid of visiting the office. 

“Students can just come in and ask questions,” Luttrell said. 

Students can also email the clinic 24/7 and call any day of the week from noon to 4 p.m. to set up an appointment, she said. The clinic plans to purchase equipment to Skype with students who cannot make regular office appointments. 

Luttrell said the clinic is there to make legal help more available, affordable and simple.

 Legal representation could cost students $300 per hour with the average attorney. The clinic would only charge $30 an hour.

“Students are already paying a lot to be here,” she said. “The last thing that they need is to pay even more money for these legal problems.”

Luttrell said students are coming to the age where they will begin to encounter rental agreements, car accidents and more.

“We want to be able to relieve the burden of legal stress on students,” she said.“…We don’t want students to be so bogged down by legal problems or so stressed out that it affects their education and subsequently their ability to return to WKU and further their education.”

The clinic is in the process of obtaining a student-fee to cover the cost of an in-house attorney for next fall. Luttrell said the university will discuss the student fee in February. 

Student Government Association President Nicki Taylor said SGA passed a resolution in support of the clinic and the creation of a $4 student fee to provide for an in-house attorney. 

Taylor said the clinic will play a big part for students.

“It may not be something every student uses, but something every student will be at risk to use,” she said.

The clinic is funded by federal grants with some financial support from WKU’s School of Professional Studies. Luttrell said once the student fees are approved the fees will help fund the clinic as well. 

Shadoan said the clinic currently receives services from about 12 volunteer attorneys. The list of volunteer attorneys may change depending on the need of the students, Shadoan noted.

The clinic plans to host two educational programs throughout the semester on topics pertaining to legal issues that students may encounter. 

Shadoan said the clinic is unique because it is tied to an undergraduate academic program.

“There are really none in the country that are tied to an undergraduate program,” Shadoan said. “Most are tied to a law program or a student affairs program.”

 Shadoan said because the clinic is tied to an undergraduate program, the clinic plans to have internships for paralegal students in the fall. 

Luttrell said the clinic has strict confidentiality policies and students can fill out a student satisfaction survey to rate the clinic. 

“We definitely will be particularly interested in the areas that we can improve,” Luttrell said. “…We are going to mold and shape our procedures to what the students need.”

Luttrell said there is definitely a need for the clinic. 

“It’s not a question of whether or not WKU needs it, it’s just a question of when,” she said. “I’m very proud that the university has supported us in having the clinic now, rather than later.”