During Fall quarter, the Indy reported on three resources available for registered students as part of service and activity fees. However, there are many more services that Clark College offers, including free, one-time legal consultations.
For over three years, Eddie “Ed” Dawson has come to Clark once a week to offer legal counsel to students. Dawson, a local lawyer of over 10 years, is employed by the college as part of Student Legal Services, an ASCC program that provides a free consultation to students with an appointment.
The Indy recently sat down with Dawson and Darci Feider, the Student Life program coordinator, to answer all of your questions about Student Legal Services and the counsel that Dawson can offer you.
- What can students talk to Dawson about?
“It can be about anything,” Feider said. “It doesn’t have to be when there’s a problem.”
While Dawson’s specialty is landlord-tenant and family law, he will counsel students about any topic. Dawson has a number of local attorneys that he refers to for topics outside of his expertise, he said. When Dawson refers a student to another law firm, he asks the lawyer to offer a free consultation to the student.
Dawson is also fluent in Spanish and German. Prior to taking the bar exam in Washington, he taught language classes at Battle Ground High School. Dawson has provided multilingual counsel to many people over the years, in his own practice and through volunteer work. Dawson does frequent volunteer work with the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Program, a local non-profit organization that provides free civil legal aid for low-income people.
“Most of the people I work with don’t speak English, so there’s an added obstacle to access our legal system,” Dawson said.
- What are the most common topics you have offered students counsel on?
When Dawson came to Clark, he anticipated counseling students about landlord-tenant law and DUIs, but he has mainly helped students with family law matters and what to do after car accidents, he said.
“[People] need to know what they can do to make themselves whole again… both from a property loss standpoint and from a personal injury standpoint,” he said.
- What do you wish students knew about the United States legal system?
“In this country we are governed by our legal system from the cradle to the grave,” he said. “There are a lot of young people who get themselves into serious trouble because they don’t really realize what their options are and what their rights are under our legal system.”
“I kind of fault our education system for not being a little more thorough in teaching people what they really need to know by way of self protection under our legal system… There are no classes on the nitty-gritty of what you do if an employer is not paying you, or what happens if an employer is mistreating you at work… what are your options? If they can come talk to me, then at least they have this little toehold on our legal system.”
- What is your favorite thing about offering legal counsel to students?
“Helping young people who don’t have access to our legal system,” he said. “If people come into this room and talk to me for a little while, and if they feel a little better when they leave, then I feel that I’ve accomplished what I am supposed to be doing.”
Along with Dawson’s services through Clark, there a number of other local organizations that provide legal help for those in need for little to no cost.
- Clark County Volunteer Lawyer Program – ccvlp.org
- NW Justice Project – nwjustice.org
- League of United Latin American Citizens – lulac.org
- YWCA – ywca.org
- Lutheran Community Services – lcsnw.org
Interested in a free legal consultation? Need legal advice?
Contact Darci Feider in the Student Life office to make an appointment
- (360) 992-2404
- Drop by her office in the Student Life Center, PUB 160
Appointments are half an hour, held in the Student Life offices, PUB 160. Students are eligible for one free consultation per academic year. Consultations are available during Fall, Winter and Spring quarters.