Legal problems are one of the most daunting challenges for students — they often lack the time, knowledge, and resources to effectively defend themselves. For many students, any interaction with the law means headache and financial commitments. One group trying to help students cut through the red tape is the Legal Resource Center.
Located on the second floor of the Pardall Center, the Legal Resource Center provides free legal assistance to students of the University of California, Santa Barbara. In describing the LRC, attorney Robin Unander said, “The Legal Resource Center is a place for students to come to get education, information, and legal advice on any kind of legal issue.”
An attorney is available to consult with all registered UCSB students on legal matters, unless the scenario involves the the university or another UCSB student. In these scenarios, the LRC must abstain so there is no conflict of interest.
“We try to have a broad canvas of issues we address,” Unander said in reference to the various problems that the LRC can consult on. On occasion, however, it becomes necessary to point the student towards a specialist.
“We’re a good first contact,” Unander said, “If it is not something that we have competent ability to advise on, if it is not within our area of expertise or practice or knowledge, then we have other attorneys that we can refer the students to.”
The LRC is there to advise students, not to punish them. Some students may be fearful of reaching out for legal aid, treading lightly with what they say. It becomes clear when talking to its legal advisors that the LRC is on the side of the student and will point them in the direction that is in the student’s best interest.
“Some students are very appreciative of what we do,” Unander said. “Some students were able to save some money because they didn’t have to hire a lawyer or we were able to help them negotiate something or win in small claims court, and so they were able to prevail.”
The recent round of student elections elected to give the LRC additional funding at $0.98 per student, or roughly $18,000 per year. The main benefit for students of the fee increase would be that the LRC remains open five days a week and that a second attorney can be added to the team.
The second attorney would allow for the LRC to better aid the students. The extra time and resources available to the LRC means that they should expect growth in demands for their services. “We feel that we are more accessible out here [in IV]” Unander said, “We are available by drop in. It is confidential and there is no appointment system, we are just open.”
Unander remains confident that the LRC will be better able to assist students with the fee increase.
“With the fee increase,” Unander said, “we can continue to stay in our space and pay our rent, but we can also go with the five day a week model and add a second attorney.” Unander believes that the second attorney, who is expected to begin next year, will be great for students, as he is expected to be a strong asset in tenant rights.
The purpose of the LRC is not to fix the problems of the students, but rather to give them the resources to best handle their situations. “Other students might get frustrated with us, because we can’t solve their problems that they got themselves into in the first place,” she said. “But generally speaking, most students are appreciative of the various ways we can help.”