Carnegie Mellon University

GSA logo of a Scotty dog.

November 01, 2018

Free Legal Consultations for Students

By Cole Gleason, VP of Communications AY18-19

Students are often at a disadvantage when renting off-campus apartments in Pittsburgh. Most students are not from Pennsylvania, or even the United States, and therefore don’t know how the local laws protect  tenants. For years, GSA has heard stories from grad students about landlords who violate their leases by withholding their security deposits for inaccurate reasons, inadequately heating their apartments in the winter, or repeatedly entering the apartments without giving the tenant notice ahead of time. A few years ago, when we wrote the GSA Strategic Plan, we decided it was time to formalize the recommendation to provide some form of legal help for CMU students, especially for landlord-tenant issues.

I’m happy to report that at the start of this academic year (2018-2019), we launched free legal consultations for students, in partnership with the Provost’s office and the Undergraduate Student Senate. These free, on-campus, 20-minute consultations with a lawyer can help students with almost any legal issue, including housing, employment, and criminal issues. If the student’s problem can be solved with quick advice, the consultation may be all they need. If not, the student may get a referral to a lawyer to hire and follow up in the future.

You can sign up for legal consultations on the Student Affairs website, using your AndrewID.

These consultations have already been booked for the past few months, and over 45 students have already utilized them for topics ranging from lease questions to identity fraud. We hope that students will continue to utilize this legal resource, and we will be evaluating the program at the end of the semester to ensure there are enough time slots and the advice given is meeting students’ needs.

GSA had to work for several years to get support from various CMU offices to get this program off the ground. We collected testimonials from students detailing where legal services would have helped them, benchmarked models at other universities, and wrote proposals of how legal consultations might work here at CMU. We are grateful that the Provost’s office was willing to hear our proposal and support it, as well as work with us to get the logistics sorted out for a launch at the beginning of the school year, right when students need legal help with moving in or out of apartments. We will be working closely with the Provost’s office and Undergraduate Student Senate to ensure this program is a success and useful for all students!

For questions on legal consultations, please email legal-consult@andrew.cmu.edu or gsa@cmu.edu.