FAMU set to provide free legal services

Image courtesy Student Legal Services

Florida A&M is getting ready to launch a new program called FAMU Student Legal Services. It will be dedicated to providing no-cost legal services to students.

The main purpose of FAMU Student Legal Services is to provide free legal advice and enhance public awareness by providing legal publications and programs free of charge. The program will include opportunities such as free consultations, landlord-tenant issues and representation from local attorneys.

Patricia Beamon is the coordinator for this new initiative, supervised by Bryan Smith, the interim associate vice president in the Office of Student Affairs.

“It was my initiative and I proposed it to the Student Government Association two years ago. Our current student body president was the Senate pro temp at that time and he thought it was an excellent idea,” said Smith.

As the new coordinator for the Student Legal Services, Beamon is responsible for overseeing the confidentiality clauses, handling applications, ensuring attorneys are accessible for students, and more.

“Make sure…we have everything we need for students who may need legal assistance; we have everything we need for them to come in, do the application, and the whole process for this to happen,” Beamon said.

Beamon will conduct a site visit at the University of Central Florida to oversee its legal services department for pointers that will help FAMU’s program. In addition to this, Beamon will coordinate with FAMU law school students for their cooperation in this new program.

Attorneys from Gee & Lee and Legal Aid Foundation are two of the agencies Beamon has contacted so far for future collaboration within the program.

“I’ve contacted a couple of attorneys that I know who have graduated from FAMU law school,” said Beamon.

“We want to partner with community legal entities, as well as externs and colleagues from FAMU’s College of Law,” added Smith.

The program’s availability, though still tentative, is set to be open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday with unlimited scheduled sessions with attorneys.

Although the program’s grand opening will be held spring semester, there will be a soft-launch from 5-7 p.m. Oct. 16 in the Grand Ballroom.

“At that time, we will talk more in-depth about the program and have some speakers as well,” said Beamon. “Mr. Smith is going to be a speaker, I’ll briefly touch on what the program is about, the SGA president will be speaking and we’re trying to get the chief of police from FAMU PD to get him to speak on that date.”

Scheduled workshops for the year have been planned with tentative dates and times:

  • “Know Your Rights” on Nov. 6
  • Grand Opening Jan. 15
  • “Sexual Assault” – Feb. 12
  • “Alcohol and Drug abuse” March 11
  • “Identity Theft” – April 1

“All of our workshops will be from 6 to 8 to give students and employees, whoever wants to attend, a chance to attend,” said Beamon.

To utilize this program’s benefits, students will have to apply online, sign off on the application agreement, and get approval from Beamon in order to set up an appointment with an attorney.

Both the attorney and client’s information will be held confidential according to their confidentiality clause:

“Student Legal Services coordinators will respect the laws of client confidentiality as well as the Attorneys participating in the service. Every message and legal problem related to a student’s particular case is strictly confidential and will not leave the office.”

Senior nursing major Emily Ace believes students will learn what it means to live off-campus.

“The students will be educated on the housing aspects of what comes along with renting an apartment or a home,” said Ace.

With positive feedback from FAMU President Larry Robinson, Beamon and Smith said they are excited to get their new initiative off the ground and running.

“I’m just looking forward to getting this program off the ground,” Beamon said. “We can help them relieve some stress if they have any legal issues.”

Smith added: “We want to alleviate some of the stressors and anxiety-causing issues often associated with legal situations; we want to enlighten students on how to handle themselves in legal situations and we want them to know that FAMU can provide assistance in a plethora of ways.”

FAMU’s Student Legal Services are in the last stages of production before its official unveiling.

“We’re still in the final stages of development and we want to present this initiative to our university’s General Counsel’s Office and Audit & Compliance Office to make sure we’ve crossed all of the “Ts” and dotted all of the “Is”,” said Smith.