UB offers legal services to students through SBI Legal
Students and attorneys work to advise students on legal issues
UB students have had their share of legal trouble this semester with 23 students arrested by Buffalo police and suspended from the university for partying in the Heights during the first few weeks of school.
But the only place for students to get legal advice isn’t a lawyer’s office or courtroom. There’s an option right on campus as well.
Sub Board I, Inc. (SBI) Legal offers a variety of legal services for undergraduate students. The office, located on the third floor of the Student Union, is open from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate both students and the attorneys who work there.
“We do everything we can,” said Chris Sasiadek, chief defender at SBI Legal and a law school student. “I definitely advise anybody, even if it seems like a minor issue to them, to come to us. Your education is one of the most important things and anything that puts that into the slightest bit of jeopardy is important. We can help a lot of people navigate that process.”
The office offers three types of services: help with legal issues outside of school – such as criminal charges, insurance issues, the legalities behind starting a business or a car accident – advice for students facing the Student Wide Judiciary (SWJ) in on-campus proceedings and a class undergraduates can take to learn how to research a legal issue and legal procedures.
There are five professional attorneys on staff available to help students. Seeking out legal advice is free of charge, as it’s paid for through the mandatory student activity fee.
Students can also come to SBI Legal for help with housing issues like advice before they sign their leases. Sasiadek said a lot of students come in seeking help on this issue in particular.
There are also 13 student defenders in the office. Student defenders are law students who assist Sasiadek in giving advice to students, trying to find evidence in students’ favor and teaching them how to present themselves in front of SWJ.
Students who participate as student defenders come in for a couple hours at a time, so that there is always someone on staff in the office. The job is also offered as work study so law students can be in the office for hours without falling behind on their studies.
Zach Persichini, a first-year student at UB’s Law School, just started working in the office. He saw a post for the position on the UB Law School Facebook page and decided to apply for it. He was a business major as an undergraduate at UB, but interest in law stems from interactions he had at his job.
“I was working at a company and they were in the middle of a merger,” Persichini said. “I worked a lot with the corporate lawyers, and that’s where it all began.”
Persichini’s job is to help students who got in trouble through the university – he walks them through the process and creates a plan of action so that they can find the best solution possible.
The student defender mentioned he hadn’t seen many cases, which he attributes to the fact it’s only the first month of school. Sasiadek takes the lead on many of them and some students choose to use the professional lawyers on staff.
Daniel Wright, a junior political science major, thinks that the opportunity to work with lawyers and in that setting would be helpful for anyone in law school.
“It’s something I would look into, because the opportunity to do casework and learn the process with professional attorneys seems like a great internship,” Wright said.
SWJ doesn’t put students in trouble on trial – it’s more like a plea bargain. Those who sit on the judiciary analyze the evidence and decide on a punishment.
“Most people who come in admit that they committed whatever charge they committed,” Sasiadek said. “They just don’t want to risk losing their education.”
Sasiadek said that the office doesn’t maintain statistics, but there is a steady influx of students who come into the office, especially at the beginning of fall semester and around Halloween.
Jane Helt, a junior psychology major, said she would definitely consider using the services if she found herself in trouble. She lives in the Heights and often sees police officers patrolling the streets and breaking up parties.
“If I ever had an issue with my house or found myself in trouble because I had people over, I would use the school’s services,” Helt said. “I wouldn’t know where else to go, and I feel like they would give me a fair chance to make my case without charging me a ton of money.”
Tori Roseman is the senior features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.