Student Legal Services provide a wide range of legal assistance for NC State students. Pam Gerace, director of the office, said the office handles many different legal issues.
“We are a general practice law firm, so we kind of do everything that hits the door,” Gerace said.
During the pandemic, Student Legal Services began using Zoom as its primary form of communication. Michael Avery, a staff attorney for Student Legal Services, said many students prefer the virtual option.
“The interesting thing is that we discovered that really students took to the idea of virtual and remote assistance,” Avery said.
Before the pandemic, the attorneys were considering setting up a temporary office on Centennial Campus. Gerace said the new use of Zoom presented another option.
“Before COVID, we were going to try to set up a temporary office on Centennial Campus because we knew it was so hard for them [students on Centennial Campus] to get here by bus,” Gerace said. “We don’t need to do that now, so we can just do Zoom.”
Zoom has made accessing legal services more convenient for students across NC State. Avery noted there have been fewer missed appointments as a result of the Zoom option.
Along with taking virtual calls, the actual cases the attorneys at Student Legal Services saw during the pandemic also changed. At the beginning of the pandemic, landlord tenant cases increased. Gerace said the attorneys did a lot of work negotiating with landlords.
“We did a lot of negotiation trying to get students out of leases because legally, unfortunately, COVID was not a defense for getting out of your lease,” Gerace said.
Avery said landlord and tenant issues are always a part of their practice. However, these matters increased during the pandemic.
“The landlord/tenant [issues] was certainly the biggest increase, even though that’s generally a big part of our practice,” Avery said.
Gerace said students’ use of technology during the pandemic presented a range of cases. Cyberstalking and online scams targeting students increased, according to Gerace.
With less students on campus, Avery saw noticeable decreases in some of the types of cases the attorneys typically see.
“We saw less traffic, drugs and alcohol offenses like that because people just weren’t around,” Avery said.
Interpersonal violence cases also went down as people went home or were staying in their rooms, according to Avery. However, he noted as students have come back to campus these cases have started to rise.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we’re seeing more of these [interpersonal violence cases],” Avery said. “But it also means that we can get out in front of it and try and assist and protect those that are victims of interpersonal violence.”
The office is happy to talk to students about anything from legal trouble to questions about law school. Avery said he wants students to know the legal services are already paid for from student fees.
“I want students to know that it’s a free service,” Avery said. “It’s already paid for, so there’s nothing that they’re going to have to pay for as far as our services.”
Gerace said they usually suggest students email them with any questions, or to schedule an appointment.
Contact information for Student Legal Services can be found here.
If you or someone you know is experiencing relationship violence, sexual violence, stalking or any other form of interpersonal violence and are in need of advocacy services, the NC State Women’s Center has trained advocates available to offer crisis intervention, emotional support, resources and referrals. Students can contact the 24/7 Sexual Assault Helpline at 919-515-4444 or email email@example.com to schedule an appointment with an advocate.
Advocacy services through the NC State Women’s Center are available for all students inclusive of all gender identities and sexual orientations.
For more information on advocacy services, please visit go.ncsu.edu/supportsurvivors. If you would like to talk to a confidential resource, you can also connect with the NC State Counseling Center at 919-515-2423. You may also visit go.ncsu.edu/safe for additional information on resources and reporting options.