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The Student News Site of Appalachian State University

The Appalachian

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Student legal clinic: Free legal advice

Gracean Ratliff

Walking into the Student Legal Clinic located in the Office of the Dean of Students, students are greeted by the legal adviser in a quiet office filled with law books that overlooks Sanford Mall.

The Student Legal Clinic offers legal advice for a variety of different cases for students including minor criminal charges and family law.

“It is free, confidential legal advice for students; and that means one-on-one consultations for any App State student. It can be a grad student, an undergrad, a part-time student,” said Karla Rusch, the student legal adviser.

Rusch is a licensed attorney and has experience working for the Legal Services of the Blue Ridge. She has worked for the university since 2002.

“The meetings can be about pretty much anything as long as it is not a dispute with the university,” Rusch said.

Criminal charges that involve App State Police or occurred on campus are not considered conflicts. Rusch is still able to advise students in these instances as she would be advising them on the court system rather than the conduct system.

The service is advice-only and the terms of confidentiality are based on an attorney-client relationship although the clinic will not be representing the student.

“I ask if they have a conflict with another App State student; we do have a policy where I could still advise a student who had a conflict with another student if they agreed to waive the conflict,” Rusch said.

Rusch has the most experience in public benefits, housing, family law and consumer law. The most common cases have been traffic tickets, landlord-tenant issues and minor criminal charges.

“There are some things that I know a lot about and I can pretty much reel off all the advice that’s relevant,” Rusch said. “There are other things that I don’t know much about so I might do some research and follow-up with the student with more information.”

In addition to advice, Rusch can refer students to other resources outside of the school. This includes government offices, such as the planning and inspection department, and attorneys in Watauga County.

Rusch created a referral directory of attorneys in Boone for students who may need more than legal advice and can provide a list of attorneys who can handle their case.

When going over a student’s legal situation, Rusch will assist them in figuring out if a lawyer would be needed in that particular instance.

“There are quite a few types of cases that come up often where students might not realize that they don’t need a lawyer, that they can navigate that scenario without a lawyer,” Rusch said.

She said some of those cases include most traffic tickets and many minor criminal charges.

The legal adviser can also review lease agreements for off-campus housing and contracts for students.

“I had a great experience with the Student Legal Clinic back in August. I went there with a friend regarding their really weird housing situation with a landlord,” said Emma Getz, a junior public health major. “Ms. Rusch was super helpful and extremely knowledgeable about our issue and she helped us figure it out. She was also super kind, it was a great experience overall.”

The advice is a starting point for students in order to give them a better understanding of what their next step with their situation is.

Rusch encourages students to go through the legal process themselves to gain in depth knowledge of the system and how their situation will affect them in the future.

The clinic serves as a starting point for students with their legal situations in order to have an idea of how to better understand and handle their situation.

“They helped me get my speeding ticket reduced to improper equipment through the DA’s online portal. No court or anything. It was super helpful,” said Maura McClain, an App State alumna.

This service is now available to students on the Hickory campus on the second Wednesday of every month.

“The idea is to make the service as available and accessible as possible to students,” Rusch said.

Students can make an appointment by phone, online or in-person at the Office of the Dean of Students.

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About the Contributor
Samantha Salvador
Samantha Salvador, Reporter
Samantha Salvador (she/her) is a freshman Spanish and political science major with a concentration in international and comparative politics from King, NC.
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