Student Legal Services savings hits milestone

Caydee Ensey / Contributing Writer

In the midst of preparation for the move to Stovall Hall while the Union is being renovated, Student Legal Services is celebrating a major milestone. Since 2000, the office has saved or recovered students a total of $1.5 million.

By tracking every time a file is closed, SLS can calculate how much money it saved individual students by recovering security deposits, settling claims against insurance companies, negotiating lower rents or successfully defending a student who was sued for a debt.

“I didn’t expect to reach these kinds of milestones,” Director of Student Legal Services Kathryn McCauley said. “We are very pleased with it, and it is a very tangible way to track our success.”

From the spacious area in the Union where SLS is now housed, McCauley reflected at how far the service has come since she arrived at UNT in 2000. She said she initially had to rush across campus to find furniture for her office.

“I was in this room that had an air-conditioning unit in the window that was so loud I had to turn it off every time I had to make a phone call,” McCauley said. “We started off with very little and very slowly. Now we are doing very well.”

Dean of Students Maureen McGuinness said 100 percent of the money that funds the SLS office comes from Student Service Fees. A committee hears from each office and decides how much each will receive based on factors such as productivity.

“We are actually showing our value, which is a unique situation,” McCauley said. “We can translate our value into dollars and cents. Their fees aren’t going into a black hole somewhere. This number really helps us to justify our existence.”

While McCauley said most students don’t use the free legal service, more than 77 percent of those who do report in exit surveys that the advice and representation they received enabled them to focus better on their studies.

“A lot of times people get into legal situations that they don’t realize that they can get out of,” said Erin Langlotz, general studies senior and student employee at SLS.

She said she’s seen frantic students enter the SLS leave knowing they’ve been helped.

“It can be scary,” she said of various troubles that students may have. “It’s nice knowing that we can help.”

The SLS office is moving into Stovall Hall in August. Reaching out to students has become a priority for the team, and they plan to use the new milestone in advertisements and publicity efforts to invite those who need legal help.

“I think it is an appealing number, so we can say this is what we have done,” McCauley said. “We are giving back to students.”

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