The CSU Legal Information Clinic, which since its inception in 2007 has only officially served undergraduates, will be opening its doors to graduate students and could be doing so as early as next week if all goes as planned.
While LIC co-ordinator Walter Tom said the clinic did originally accommodate graduate students, “there was no formal structure for them.” According to Tom, “it quickly became evident that graduate students had an immediate need for services and so that took a toll on the overall quality of services […] We only have a limited amount of resources.”
After Concordia’s Counselling and Development closed its similar Legal Information Services in 2009, graduate students in need of legal information had few options. “There was a void,” said Graduate Student Association Advocacy Manager Roddy Doucet, who picked up the portfolio last year. At that point, with no comparable services to offer, Doucet and the GSA dealt with their constituency’s legal issues on an ad-hoc basis, often reaching out to people within their own network.
The clinic will now be open Wednesday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. for graduate students. However, as Tom was quick to point out, the project is in its test stages. “It’s not a permanent basis, so we’ll see how it goes,” he said.
The continuation of the service is contingent on two factors: its ability to attract graduate students and the need for “permanent financing for the services,” either from the GSA or the Concordia Council on Student Life. At this point, the CCSL is providing the funding for the graduate hours, while services offered to undergraduates are financed by the CSU.
Moreover, while financing at this time is dedicated to immigration law, consumer protection and discrimination, graduate students find themselves dealing with finance, employment and family and matrimonial issues, Tom said.
Undergraduates will also benefit from added hours at the clinic as of next week as a result of the high demand for their services: Those new hours will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
With only two paid employees, the clinic runs mostly on the work of its 16 volunteer law students. Tom said there is a possibility they will bring on more volunteer law students and a second administrative assistant to help manage the new hours.
Students wishing to make use of the clinic’s services must make an appointment to do so, either online at [email protected] or by phone at extension 7935.