Dealing with legal issues as a college student is a nerve-racking experience. Getting advice from a law firm or lawyer with proper credentials can often be an expensive and time consuming process- and time and money are two things many college students don’t have. However, many UWM students are able to obtain proper legal consultation on campus often at no fee or for a fraction of the price of going to a law firm.
The University Legal Clinic is a nonprofit, on-campus legal aid available to all enrolled UWM students. Open since 1971, the ULC has been assisting students with a plethora of legal issues from parking violations and drinking tickets up all the way up major cases involving felonies and lawsuits.
The clinic is run by 18 volunteer student paralegals, mostly political science and criminal justice majors, overseen by a practicing lawyer, John Wartman.
Wartman, who has been practicing for over 25 years, has been supervising and providing aid at the clinic since 2001.
Wartman is paid very little for his services, but rather offers aid because “he’s a great person, extremely passionate about what he does,” said Jenna Gilliland, paralegal. “There are no words for [Wartman], I just love him. He really cares about what he does and the students he serves.”
Under Wartman are three executive board members, all paralegals themselves, who oversee day-to-day operations within the clinic.
“[The University Legal Clinic] gives the students a fighting chance, many students don’t know Wisconsin’s laws,” said Aric Kasel, executive director. “We offer a very unique service here- like no other. Were an indispensable source. We save students a lot of money.”
The clinic is paid for through student segregated fees. This is the basis behind the free to low cost services at the clinic. The idea is that students have already paid for the services and are there to be utilized at their will.
“Students pay for our services through segregated fees, so our purpose to serve the students,” said Phil Cochran, senior paralegal.
About 50 percent of all cases handled by the clinic involve student housing issues. This involves evictions, disputes with roommates and discrepancies in security deposit returns with landlords.
“There are so many landlords in university housing that try to take advantage of the students here, so we try to help [students] out, and usually we’re pretty successful,” said Kasel.
While most cases are able to be handled in a timely and low-cost procedure, some cases are too complicated to be dealt within a few visit. Cases considered too complicated to be dealt with in meetings at the clinic are evaluated and referred to other law entities that are capable of helping the student.
The clinic also abstains from handling cases that are at a conflict of interest with the university. This would involve filing a case against any university staff, organization or student. The ULC is obligated to assist all potential students and organizations being that their segregated fees are also allocated into the clinic.
Filing a case:
Students can walk-in any time Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to seek legal consultation. The student should have all documents and information pertaining to their concerns available and be ready to explain their legal issue to a student paralegal.
After meeting with their student paralegal, all relevant information will be relayed to the staff attorney, Wartman, to analyze potential options.
Depending on the complexity of the case the student may be scheduled a direct appointment with the attorney, however most issues are able to be solved in one or two visits. If aid cannot be provided through the ULC the student will be referred to other legal resources.