SGA provides students with free legal service

By Eric Vazquez
Campus Life Staff

As part of an ongoing service since 1974, the Georgia Tech SGA provides students with free legal counsel from several Atlanta-based legal firms.

The law offices of Ted Price and Associates, along with Gerber and Gerber, grant free legal consultations to both graduate and undergraduate students who may find themselves in any legal trouble. This service is free of charge, but continues to go under-utilized by students who are not aware of its existence.

23 years ago, the Graduate Student Government at Tech realized that they had an opportunity to provide an invaluable service to many students who found themselves financially incapable of handling legal dilemmas.

The student government and Price and Associates devised a system whereby legal advice would be readily available to students on a weekly basis. By 1988, the demand on Price's time was so great that a second firm, Gerber and Gerber, was asked to join the team.

The demand and success of the program, as well as the steady flow of cases, has kept this co-venture alive through the years.

Most of the cases handled by the group fall into the categories of landlord/tenant disputes and disagreements among roommates. Although these tend to make up the bulk of the legal issues faced by students, the attorneys are certainly not limited to such cases. Other frequent legal binds include traffic mishaps, injury and liability, and immigration dilemmas.

Since these attorneys are neither paid by the counseled students nor by SGA, they can handle any issues concerning scholastic matters without reservation. That is, they are free of bias, regardless of the fact that they work through the SGA.

"My only wish would be for my little calendar to be full when I go down there [to Tech] on Mondays," said Price when asked if there were any problems with the program.

This under-utilization seems to be the greatest concern for both the firms and the student government. Although the program appears to work well and is in no threat of being terminated, students are urged to use it freely and frequently.

These lawyers do provide legal counsel and advice, but they do not take students as clients free of charge. Price pointed out that if he were able to resolve a problem by means of a letter or a phone call, however, he would certainly make such an effort.

When asked why he provides such a service, Price cited two primary reasons behind the initiative. The first is the opportunity for him and his associates to give back to the community. Although he is not a Tech alumnus, he has found that he enjoys the opportunity to stay in touch with campus life through the year and witness the changes in student issues, as well as the student body itself.

The second reason is the pool of potential clients that the lawyers acquire. By helping Georgia Tech students, these attorneys gain a reputation among future executives and engineers. This vast body of potential clients keeps these law firms ahead of those who do not extend such services.

Currently, these groups consult with an average of two to three students a week-- a count not great enough to draw many of these attorneys across town twice a week. However, those who come to Tech are more than willing to make the commute.

Students who wish to take advantage of this free legal counsel should call the SGA office at (404) 894-2814 to make an appointment. Appointments are available for every other Monday at 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., Wednesdays at 3 p.m., and Fridays at 11:30 a.m.

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Copyright © 1997 by Gregory S. Scherrer, Editor
and by the Student Publications Board