On-campus legal advice may save time, money

By Megan Rutherford
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 6, 1996

Charles C. LaBenz
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Susan Ferrell is the Associated Students legal adviser for UA students who cannot afford a lawyer. Although not able to represent students in court, she can inform them of their rights and liabilities.


Many students may not know they can attain legal services from a professional on campus for free.

Susan Ferrell is the Associated Students legal advisor for University of Arizona students who cannot afford to go to a lawyer.

"One-third of the people who come to me have landlord/tenant problems," Ferrell said.

She said other major problems concern misdemeanors, family law, debts, consumer law, car accidents and traffic tickets.

"If a student knows what the law is, then they are much more likely to have a successful outcome," Ferrell said.

She said she encourages students to come and see her before breaking a lease, suing someone in small claims court or going to court, instead of seeking counsel afterward, when it may be too late.

A common situation Ferrell said she sees is when a student breaks a lease because a landlord refuses to repair damages to an apartment. The student is then required by law to pay fines even though the landlord seems to be in the wrong. Ferrell said if stu dents would come to her first, they would avoid such situations.

She said many people are not aware there is a landlord/tenant act that outlines tenant's rights.

Although Ferrell is able to give advice to students, write letters for them or refer them to lawyers, she is not allowed to represent anyone in court. Often she will refer students to the Pima County Bar Association, which provides attorney referrals.

"I can tell them what their rights and liabilities are," she said.

Ferrell said her main focus is to show students how they can help themselves, and the only way to do that is to get the right information.

For example, many students who come to her concerning citations for possession of marijuana, underage drinking or false identification do not know the university has a diversion program, Ferrell said. She said those cited for a victimless misdemeanor for the first time are allowed to ask to be put in the diversion program.

"Even though you may think you know the law, I have practical experience on how to handle problems," Ferrell said.

She said another one-third of the students she sees are graduate students, because they tend to be older and have more of a chance to encounter legal problems. There are also a fair number of international students who come to her, Ferrell said.

"It's a real pleasure to work with students, because they are generally bright and are able to help themselves," she said.

Even when a student does not have a good case, they feel better knowing they can get on with their lives or with solving the problem, she said.

Ferrell provides services completely free of charge to students and is funded through the Department of Program Services of ASUA.

Ferrell was in a law firm for eight years before coming to work for the UA part time.

Students are provided free pamphlets about various legal issues, including security deposits, credit cards, car loans and work-at-home scams at the ASUA office, and are invited to stop by and get them.

Ferrell also put together a packet advising students how to represent themselves in small claims court, which is available for free in her office. A renter's handbook and apartment guide is also available.

Ferrell's office is located at the ASUA office, and students can make appointments by calling 621-2782. Her office is open from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Walk-in appointments are scheduled for one hour each day.