Street law provides free legal counsel

By Kaila Cove

Street Law provides the community with free legal advice.

Street Law, which is held by Law Advocates, a Bellingham nonprofit, gives counseling on a drop-in basis and is held several times a month in the Heiner Center at Whatcom Community College and at the Bellingham Public Library.

“This civil legal help serves around 1,000 people a year that tend to be low income residents in Whatcom County,” said Michael Heatherly, the executive director of Law Advocates.

Volunteers give advice to community members in a private setting.

“One of the biggest problems for low income and young people is legal barriers,” Heatherly said. “This program allows them to move ahead.”

It is a confidential way to ask civil legal questions.

“They can get free legal advice where they wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else. This clinic is an opportunity for those who have no other alternatives and have nowhere to go,” Heatherly said.

The organization serves students who may be dealing with domestic violence, student debt, and many other legal issues.

Not only is Street Law used as a resource for those with legal problems, but it is also a learning tool for prospective paralegals and lawyers.

Luis Aguilar, the coordinator for Street Law says, “It allows students to gain some educational experience and insight in the legal field, while at the same time providing residents with solutions or various services to legal issues.”

Nancy Ivarinen, the coordinator for Whatcom Community College’s Paralegal Studies Program says, “Street Law can often provide people with further resources and directions for how to handle their legal problems.”

Street Law does not offer long term representation. Attendees are given a one-time consultation, which involves recommendations for further help, including whether or not they should get a lawyer.

Street Law was founded almost 30 years ago. It started on a sidewalk in downtown Bellingham, Ivarinen said.

Street Law events are busy, so drop-in spots fill up quickly. It is best to show up early.

It will be at Whatcom on Oct. 31, Nov. 14, and Dec. 5 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and again from 5 to 7 p.m.

Students can visit www.lawadvocates.org for more information.


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