Pro bono clinic helps students with legal issues
By Alayna Smith CM-Life
Amid waiting approval and limited use, the Student Government Association-led pro bono legal clinic for students has reopened.
The first session was held Feb. 8 in Anspach 033, and will continue every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The pro bono legal clinic was granted approval for opening last spring and is in its second year of operation, helping students with their legal concerns. Several attorneys, all but one of them professors at Central Michigan University, help run the clinic.
Todd Levitt, criminal defense attorney and professor of business, said the services being offered at the clinic are essential for many students on campus. Levitt, a CMU graduate himself, said he is excited to be working so closely with his alma mater.
“Back when I went to school here, I saw the need for students on campus and off campus to have free legal advice,” Levitt said. “Central did so much for me; this is my way of giving back.”
SGA Legal Clinic Director Chris Armelagos said it is important to connect students with licensed attorneys when faced with legal problems.
“A lot of people wouldn’t know where to go, what to do in certain situations,” he said. “Having the opportunity to talk to a licensed attorney for 30 minutes is an invaluable service.”
Many students seek legal advice regarding issues with their landlord, roommates and alcohol or drug-related laws. Questions dealing with the university code of conduct are also common, so Levitt always carries a copy with him, he said.
“I’ve found, personally, the university policies to be generous and in-tune with the rest of the country,” he said.
The cases vary greatly, and while some deal with criminal or civil matters, the majority are landlord/tenant problems, Armelagos said.
“There are students who took out too (many loans) and don’t know what to do, and we have students who haven’t paid rent,” he said.
Milford senior Kacie Cadotte said she has found the services extremely helpful, but recommended having an idea of what to talk about before going for an appointment.
“Given that we only have a half hour, it’s limited,” Cadotte said. “You should go in there prepared.”
Tom Cadotte, Kacie’s father who accompanied her to see the lawyer, agreed preparation was vital to get the most out of the meeting.
“Make sure you have all the facts written down and all documents you might need,” he said. “If you don’t have documentation, you won’t know what to ask.”
Coldwater senior David Bailey agreed the services were useful, and said it was unfortunate students did not utilize them more often.
“The services should be more well known; they would be able to benefit others,” Bailey said. “I found it very helpful.”
Students wishing to speak to an attorney must first make an appointment, as time is limited. Students should visit the clinic’s website to book an appointment and get connected with an attorney.
Levitt said the various methods of communication are important for answering the many questions that students have about law.
“So many students don’t know where to turn,” he said.
Kacie said she was thankful to have someone to talk to about her legal troubles.
“I wish I would have known it existed before,” she said.
Levitt said every attorney should do pro bono work and give back as much as possible.
“I think if every person in every walk of life and in every profession helped just one person, our world would be a much better place,” Levitt said.