When Student Legal Service Can’t Help

The Student Legal Service Plan

When the Student Legal Service (SLS) program was established in 1978, its function was largely limited to providing advice, counsel, and referral to students. Legal representation was provided by the office in housing matters, but only on a very limited basis for any other issue. Over the years, the scope of the office has expanded tremendously. Today SLS provides a broad range of legal services, including increased representation of students in litigation. Nonetheless, there remain situations in which SLS cannot effectively be of assistance. This pamphlet is designed to provide some advice to students in matters which frequently occur in their lives and in which SLS can be of little direct assistance.


Divorce is an area where SLS cannot represent students. Champaign County has implemented a do–it– yourself process which fulfills the needs of most U of I students in such matters. Preprinted fill–in–the– blank forms are available at no charge at the Office of Circuit Clerk, located in the Champaign County Courthouse, 101 East Main, Urbana.

These forms imply need to be completed by both parties, and filed with the clerk, and a hearing date will be assigned. The only requirements are :

  1. that the parties have been separated for at least six months;
  2. that there are no children of the marriage;
  3. that the parties own no real estate; and
  4. that the total household income does not exceed $35,000.

SLS is available to assist students in completing the forms, unless both parties are U of I students, in which case there is a conflict of interest exclusion.

Litigation Outside Champaign County

Another very common situation arises when students become involved in litigation outside of Champaign County, Illinois. Frequently, students receive traffic citations from other jurisdictions both within & out of the state, and SLS can only offer representation in Champaign County. The same holds true for students charged with misdemeanors, and those being sued in small claims courts of other jurisdictions. On occasion, legal representation may not be a necessity. A call by SLS to the court issuing a traffic citation may result in the discovery of options other than simply paying the ticket, such as traffic school or court supervision. More difficult are cases of criminal charges or civil lawsuits, wherein legal representation may be critical.

International Issues

U of I is a very international campus, and questions involving immigration and visa matters are very common. Unfortunately, this is an area in which SLS cannot competently advise in any capacity. Immigration law is a highly specialized technical field, and one with dire consequences when it goes wrong. Additionally, the nearest immigration office is in Chicago, not Champaign, Illinois. Frequently, students will obtain various immigration & visa forms, and request help from SLS in filling them out. Even for such a seemingly simple task, the office cannot safely assist. The language in the documents is subject to interpretation, and an erroneous reading of instructions, questions, and such can result in wrong answers and poor information, which can substantially harm a student’s case. It is therefore far better to engage the services of a lawyer who concentrates in this area of practice. While it will cost money to do this, it is money well spent to obtain the results one is seeking and to avoid potentially draconian results.


SLS does not advise on tax matters or prepare tax returns. Students are advised to consult tax preparation services, or accountants for such assistance.

Intellectual Property

Another popular topic on a university campus is that of intellectual property protection: copyright, trademark, and patent. This is another area in which SLS cannot competently give advice or counsel, and is actually prohibited from providing representation.

Patent and related law is one of only two specialties recognized in the law. (The other is Admiralty Law, in which there seems to be no local interest whatsoever) . Lawyers who represent clients in this area must have a special license to do so. Like immigration, it is a highly specialized, technical field, and should always be left to the experts

Student Legal Service remains available to advise, counsel, and represent in a wide range of matters, such as landlord/tenant issues, traffic citations in Champaign County, and others

For a more complete list of included and excluded services, visit our website: http://www.uiuc.edu/unit/SLS and follow the link for “General Information”


There are numerous websites that can help you locate legal assistance when SLS cannot help. They include the following: