One of the most beneficial aspects of the University of Oklahoma community is the number of free programs offered to students. From tutoring services to resume help, the opportunities are endless, and when the 2015-2016 Student Government Association administration saw the need for student legal aid, Student Legal Services was born. Part-time attorney Tracey Langford heads the program and is available to help provide limited-scope legal representation to any student who needs it. The services offered include advice, consultations and education on a variety of legal issues, as well as forms – where appropriate – that can enable students to provide themselves with some measure of self-help.
We had the privilege of sitting down with Tracey and getting to know more about the program. Keep reading to hear more from Tracey and to learn about all of the opportunities available to students through Student Legal Services!
In your own words, could you give us a brief overview of the program?
The former administration of the student government made this creation a part of their campaign platform. They were ultimately elected and that’s really when the work began. So, I always say thank your student government, because honestly, I would not be here, this office would not be here and this program would not be here if it wasn’t for their work to bring this service to students. From my perspective, the main limitations were the resources available. I am the only employee, I am the only attorney and I am part-time. Just due to those limitations, we could not do litigation for students. We settled upon something called “Limited-Scope Legal Representation.” What that means is that when you come visit me, an attorney-client relationship is established, but it doesn’t exist beyond this office. Whatever we can take care of in here, I can be your attorney for, and you are entitled to the same benefits as you would get from any other attorney, meaning confidentiality and privilege, but it also means that I am protected from entanglements in proceedings beyond the scope of our program.
What types of cases or situations do you help with or see?
I try to help any student with any legal problem. That being said, I don’t have all of the answers. Nobody can, but if a student comes in to talk to me, I can at least help them know whether or not they actually need to hire an attorney. There are attorneys in the Norman community that have offered to help OU students at a reduced rate if they do need help. The student may qualify for reduced cost legal services such as legal aid, and we can help them find those programs. What I generally see is landlord-tenant issues, family law cases and some criminal matters. Those cases are usually the bulk of it. Going forward, I think that is the majority of what students will need.
Would you say this is open to any and all students?
Open to anyone and everyone. The only limitations that are placed on the program are that I cannot use my services for the benefit of one OU student against another OU student, just as I could not use my services to benefit an OU student against a staff member or against the university.
Do students make appointments through email? How does that process work?
So far, it’s been mainly through email that I set appointments. I do not do phone consultations. You have to come in to the office and fill out an intake and consent form. That way, we can talk and see what we need to do. I do keep some walk-in hours, but I encourage everyone to make an appointment. Students will be much better served by making an appointment.
What would you say is the goal of SLS?
My personal goal is to help as many students as I can. The program is a valuable service. I always say if you had a legal issue and you didn’t know what to do and you just called an attorney and asked to speak with them, they would probably charge you an hourly fee. You may find one that will give you a free consultation, but it is not going to come without the pressure of a sale. Just that alone, the benefit of having someone to talk to and go over your options with, is really important for students. I want this program to grow. There are actually around 150 SLS programs through different universities across the nation. Some are full-service and show that there is room for us to grow, and I certainly want to do what I can to help our program grow in that direction.
What is the one thing you want students to know about the program?
That we are here. That it’s free. That I’m available. Students are welcome to come in and talk. While I can’t actually solve their problem for them, I can certainly help them figure out their next steps.
What drew you to want to work with this program?
It really just fit me well in every way. The best way that I have been able to explain it is that career-wise, I am not a surgeon or a specialist. I am the equivalent of a family doctor. I did a lot of criminal and family law and dealt with the things that everyday families and everyday people experience. That gave me a wide breadth of knowledge, which then applies here, because we have so many people in so many different situations from international students, to married students, to regular college kids that might get in trouble on the weekend. That all helps me be able to assist a lot of different people in a lot of different situations.
As an OU alumni, is it nice being back here? Did that help a lot with your decision to come back?
Oh yes! My family was already living in Norman and it’s been a long time since I have lived and worked in Norman. You don’t really realize it while you are here, but this is just such a special time and such a great place to be. It’s so pretty, and it’s almost like the air just smells sweeter on campus. Everyone is here trying to better themselves or better their community or better the learning environment, and in the outside world that’s just not how it is. That is what makes working for OU so special.
Still have questions or want to speak with Tracey? Email email@example.com.