Student Legal Services enacts three-year action plan for 50th anniversary

University of Iowa Student Legal Services is celebrating its 50th anniversary by implementing a new three-year action plan.


Raquele Decker at The Daily Iowa

Alyssa Pomponio and Amanda Elkins pose for a portrait outside of the Student Legal Services office on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021.

Anthony Neri, News Reporter

The University of Iowa Student Legal Services office will implement a three-year Action Plan to improve its services to students, as it commemorates its 50th year on campus.

The plan was spearheaded by a program review in March, conducted by the National Student Legal Services chapter and Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, according to the UI’s Division of Student Life website.

One of these goals, which the Student Legal Services office has already accomplished, was to secure funding for an immigration referral program, UI Student Legal Services Director Amanda Elkins said.

Elkins said immigration services in the office were limited because it’s a specialized area of law.

“We got some funding so that we could refer students to an outside immigration attorney who focuses their practice,” she said. “We’re also looking at new educational programming.”

Elkins said Student Legal Services is starting an expungement clinic as well, which will help first-time offending students elide records of early offenses.

The UI Student Legal Services office was established in 1971, Elkins said, and was among the first in the country.

“It’s also interesting that some of the reasons why student legal services started in the first place, which was related to Vietnam War protests and Civil Rights protests, are still issues that students need assistance with today,” she said.

In addition to these services, Elkins said her team is considering reconfiguration of its current office space or moving to a new location entirely. The Student Legal Services office is currently located in the Iowa Memorial Union.

According to an action plan on the Division of Student Life website, the office is “difficult to find, unwelcoming, cramped, and requires time and resources to ensure confidentiality.”

Student Legal Services is also interested in paving the way for clearer communications between its staff and the Division of Student Life, Elkins added.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, the short-lived Student Advisory Board was intended as a channel for voicing student concerns to Student Legal Services, but Elkins said COVID-19 has put it into disuse.

To make up for this, as well as a recent lack of in-person events because of the pandemic, the Student Legal Services office will use Student Life Communications — a UI strategic communications team — to better market its mission, according to the Division of Student Life website.

The communications are primarily meant to benefit first- and second-year students who didn’t have traditional orientations and may have missed the opportunity to learn about Student Legal Services, according to its website.

Alyssa Pomponio, assistant attorney in UI Student Legal Services, said the office intends to collaborate to spread word of the office’s services to students, staff, and faculty — who may refer students.

“We assist in a variety of different practice areas,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you are coming to us proactively like, for example, for a lease review, or if you are in need of some kind of defense or something like that—if you have been charged for a crime, if you have been involved in some kind of internet scam and you’ve lost money, or you need a divorce.”

Although 2021 marks Student Legal Services’ 50th anniversary at the UI, Elkins said celebratory events are still under consideration and not certain.

“We’re hesitant to schedule in-person events at this point, just because we don’t know what’s going to happen with COVID,” she said. “So, we’re focusing right now more on social media and reaching out to alumni. We might do a panel discussion kind of about the history of Student Legal Services—so we’re still in the pretty early planning stages.”