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UI Student Legal Services to hire new attorney

BY KRISTEN EAST | DECEMBER 09, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa spends less on providing legal advice to students than any school in the Big Ten.

Greg Bal, supervising attorney for UI Student Legal Services, said he doesn't think adding a part-time attorney is too much to ask, given that his office sees around 1,200 students per year, which equates to the highest client-per-attorney ratio.

Bal said UI officials hope to hire a part-time attorney to assist him by January, before the spring semester begins.

"It'd be nice to have somebody in place by next semester when it's our busiest time," he said.

The part-time attorney would be responsible for providing legal services to UI students, supervising law students in their clinical work, and promoting the office's services, Bal said.

The UI Student Government allocates $154,000 for Student Legal Services. Adding one part-time attorney would tack $20,000 onto that budget.

With a projected $174,000 budget for 1.5 attorneys, Bal said, the UI would still have the lowest budget among similar offices across the Big Ten.

"It can definitely fit in the budget," he said. "It isn't an extravagant request."

Not only is UI Student Legal Services seeing more students this year, he said, the number of students who use the office for representation is also on the rise.

An increase in students seeking legal counsel is also a trend among other Big Ten universities.

Officials from other schools said their offices are equipped with an adequate number of attorneys.

Mary Ann Midden, one of three staff attorneys at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign office, said "a number of factors" influence how many attorneys are employed at the school.

For the 2010-11 school year, 1,797 students received in-office services at the school.

"It's based on the amount of work that goes on in the office and how many students come in," Midden said.

Randall Frykberg, the director of Student Legal Services at Indiana University, said the number of students seeking legal services has almost doubled in recent years.

"The number of attorneys most certainly has to do with the size of the student body," he said. "It's always going to be a reflection of the commitment that the university has to providing legal services for students."

Frykberg said students seek legal counsel because seeing a human being for help in certain situations is essential.

"In a legal sense, someone has to hear the weird proclivities of a student's case," he said. "There's value in having someone there with you, someone to tell you it's OK."

The University of Michigan employs five full-time attorneys to aid the some 2,000 students who seek legal advice annually.

But officials at Michigan said a greater number of attorneys isn't merely used to aid a larger student population.

The Student Legal Services director at Michigan, Douglas Lewis, said that each attorney at the university focuses on a specific aspect of law.

"Staff size is not based on the client population, necessarily," he said. "It has to do with the needs of that population, and how many cases an attorney can handle at a given time."

Bal said the UI has not advertised the position yet but hopes to do so as soon as the job position and budget is approved by UISG and other UI officials.


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