May 112008
Authors: Kathleen Harward

In last Wednesday’s Collegian, graduating senior Phil Elder wrote a true ode to freshmen about making the most of the college experience. An ode, being a lyric poem of a meditative nature, is just what his points of advice added up to.

I was inspired. The ending was the best: “You’ve been given all the freedoms you’ve ‘deserved’ since middle school, but without all the horrid shackles of family and retirement plans and minivans and mortgages binding your hands and feet. Do everything you can with that freedom – those shackles are coming sooner than you think.”

My first thought was, “how many of his suggested adventures did I undertake when I was in college?” My next thought, “anyone following his advice ought to know a good lawyer first.”

Since lawyers in the shackled outside world bill out at upwards of $200 per hour, it might be a very long time in that world before you’ll be able to say to someone who isn’t treating you fairly, “you’ll be hearing from my lawyer!”

Right now, your lawyer is minutes away in the Lory Student Center and costs you nothing. The three licensed lawyers at Student Legal Services have 40 years of combined experience. No, we’re not just paralegals or interns or law students, which we get asked sometimes.

We’ve all had a lot of experience outside the University before coming here – Rob Lowrey as a public defender in Alaska, Amy Parsons as an attorney at Crossroads Safehouse, and I, in Los Angeles and Fort Collins handling most every kind of civil issue.

But back to Elder’s suggested adventures:

“Get stoned on top of a mountain,” Elder advises. Lots of ways you could end up needing us.

“Walk home wasted.”

I agree with Elder, it’ll save you from a DUI, but there’s still the potential for other charges, including an indecent exposure charge if you have to go so bad you step behind a tree and get caught. It might surprise you to know this charge raises the danger of your being labeled a sex offender with requirements of registering. You’d definitely want our help.

“Sign up for an organization — it’ll look good on your resume and you never have to go to any meetings,” Elder says.

What about getting elected as an officer? That’ll look even better on your resume. What you might not know is how risky it has become in this litigious society to be an officer of an organization. Someone gets hurt or killed and the officers get sued.

That shouldn’t stop you from getting involved in groups you care about, but talk to us about how to lessen your risk.

Elder’s ode is all about experiencing life outside of the books during college. I agree that experience is the best teacher. Getting advice from your SLS lawyers won’t deprive you of the benefit of experience. In fact, our mission is to “help you help yourself.”

But while you have easy, free access to experienced lawyers, why not get some tips before you hand over your $8,000 to buy a car from a private seller you know nothing about?

Got a great idea for a business? Talk to us about business licenses, sales tax, liability waivers, forming a limited liability entity and legal protection for your novel idea.

You had a medical emergency and didn’t have insurance. Creditors are now breathing down your neck? Talk to us about options.

Want to loan your boyfriend money to buy a car? Think twice. If you still insist, come to us for a promissory note and make him sign it before you make the loan.

A potential landlord hands you a twelve page, small font, single-spaced lease to sign? Don’t do it. Not until you’ve gone through our lease kit on our Web site ( or talked to us.

You don’t have to learn everything alone. We’re your safe zone. No question is too dumb, embarrassing, or shocking.

Your parents might not know how to help you, or you might not want them in the loop. Everything with us is confidential.

We demystify the legal process and explain the whole deal. Outside lawyers don’t always do that because the mystery can help them justify their fees. Your lawyers at SLS are here for you.

Kathleen Harward is the director of Student Legal Services. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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