Student legal services clinic to open next semester

Lashana Harney

A student legal services clinic will be available for students seeking legal advice or legal representation starting in the spring semester of 2015. 

Julia Shadoan, professor of paralegal studies and a licensed attorney, said the clinic will provide services at a reduced cost to students.

 The exact cost has not yet been determined.

“There is a huge gap in the legal services that are being offered at normal fees versus what students can afford,” Shadoan said.

Shadoan said the clinic will not only provide legal services, but plans to educate students on certain aspects of understanding laws through seminars. 

The clinic will be in Tate Page Hall, Room 252, and will begin providing services in January.

Services will cover legal issues including criminal violations, traffic violations, family law, landlord/tenant, small claims, immigration law, estate planning and first-offense DUIs.

However, there are some services the clinic cannot provide, such as claims involving the university or disputes between students.

Shadoan said the clinic will be available for all students at WKU, including part-time students, transfer students, international students and students on regional campuses. However, services will not be provided to minors.

“For things outside our menu of services, we also would agree to try and find an external attorney that would take the case on a referral basis,” Shadoan said.

Shadoan said she has seen the need for the clinic through observing students in and out of the courtroom.

“I recognized that I see a lot of students out of the courtrooms who are clearly in over their heads,” Shadoan said. “They don’t know what they are doing. They haven’t had advice.”

Shadoan said legal aid cannot provide services for students who are not below a certain income level. Those students can’t afford the prices of a private practitioner. Legal services is able to provide those students with legal opportunity.

“I think there is enough students that would need this kind of service that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to it,” Shadoan said.

Madisonville graduate student Kelsey Luttrell said students would receive legal advice much faster at the clinic.

“There are so many people legal aid is servicing, WKU students just get thrown in the mix,” Luttrell said. “They could have really long wait times, whereas if they could just walk in the clinic, they would get help a lot faster than they would if they were trying to use legal aid.”

Shadoan said the clinic has agreements with about eight attorneys that will volunteer their time to serve students.

Shadoan said the clinic is trying to set up regular office hours for walk-ins, but most services will be done through appointments only.

She said if the clinic gets support through the Student Government Association or Student Affairs, there may be a student fee and a student fee could reduce the clinic’s costs of services. 

Shadoan said she hopes to hire a full-time attorney in the future.

“The volunteers obviously have private practices and they are not going to be able to put in four or five hours a week here, unpaid especially,” Shadoan said. “So, we’re hoping that the part-time or full-time attorney could at least provide 20 hours if not full-time amount of service per week with the students.”

Shadoan said she would need to hire an attorney with a general background, so that the needs of all students can be met.

Shadoan said the clinic would be the first of its kind in Kentucky.

“It’s unusual that there is not anything of this kind in the state of Kentucky,” Shadoan said. “It’s a pretty well-recognized and well-established concept on a lot of campuses. It’s odd to me that it has never been discussed in any sort of serious way.”

Shadoan said the clinic is grant-funded and partially funded through the School of Professional Studies.

There are Skype consultations available for students on regional campuses that cannot travel to main campus, Shadoan said.

She said she has been in the planning stage for about five years.

“There is a lot that goes into this and I’ve unfortunately gotten pulled off from concentrating on it,” Shadoan said.

Shadoan said she was able to concentrate on getting the clinic up and running for about the past two years.

Shadoan hopes to launch three educational programs, such as seminars on lease agreements or other legal issues students can encounter while in college, when the clinic begins operations in the spring. 

Luttrell said the amount of students using the clinic could vary drastically.

“It can vary anywhere from 20 students a month to 2,000 students a year,” Luttrell said.

Shadoan said gauging success for the clinic will show through the number of students who use the clinic and through evaluations of the services.

Luttrell said the office will be open for any legal advice.

“If you just have a legal question, you can come in and talk to us,” Luttrell said. “You don’t have to specifically want to start a lawsuit or go to court.”

The clinic will also offer internships to students within the paralegal studies program.

Luttrell said the legal services clinic will add to WKU’s uniqueness.

“I feel like WKU is always trying to be the leading university and I feel like that opening a legal clinic will be a step to continue doing that,” Luttrell said.