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The award-winning newspaper of Anne Arundel Community College.

Campus Current

The award-winning newspaper of Anne Arundel Community College.

Campus Current

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Students get free legal advice at Legal Self-Help Clinic

Divine Mesumbe
The Legal Self-Help Clinic started in Spring 2023 of last year and has had over a dozen student volunteers. Shown, second-year paralegal student Heather Sowa (left) and volunteer lawyer Morgan Winn.

Students can get free legal advice on matters ranging from family issues to landlord disputes at AACC’s Legal Self-Help Clinic at the Glen Burnie Town Center.

The year-old clinic is open on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. for students to ask volunteer attorneys and paralegal students about family law, business, employment, and estates and trusts, for example.

“So many people have [legal] issues,” third-year paralegal student Judah Contreras, a clinic volunteer, said. “They don’t know who to go to.”

The volunteers offer advice but do not represent the students in legal cases, according to Morgan Winn, a lawyer who volunteers at the clinic.

Legal Studies Institute Director Erin Gable said the idea for a free clinic came to her after attending a breakfast with Hispanic business owners.

“One thing that they were talking about [was] the ways that the college could help service their community to provide legal information,” Gable said. “I was, like, ‘It would be really incredible and a wonderful opportunity for our students to work in a legal clinic.’”

Law schools across the country host similar clinics to give their students “clinical experience,” according to Gable.

“When I was in law school, I was in the clinic,” Gable said. “ I thought it would be incredible to do the same thing here.”

The clinic offers hands-on experience “that people don’t really get in the classroom,” Contreras said.

Over a dozen paralegal, law and jurisprudence students volunteer at the clinic each semester and “have the option and the opportunity to interact with real-life scenarios,” Contreras said. “We don’t always get litigants, but when we do, we love it.”

Winn said the volunteer attorneys help the paralegal students gain “real-world practical experience.”

“We try to get students to just come in and shadow attorneys,” Winn said. “That’s something that I think no other paralegal studies program is doing.”

The clinic has not been getting “a lot of traffic,” said Winn, who noted about 10 student clients used it in 2023.

“The difficulty we’re having right now is marketing,” Winn said. “We’re trying to increase that.”

Gable agreed.

“We haven’t penetrated into the community,” Gable said. “We need to let the public know that we’re here.”

Gable said the goal of the clinic volunteers is to turn the clinic into a credit course.

“We’re trying to kind of get the word out and that is part of what needs to kind of happen before we can make this an academic course,” Gable said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

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