Student legal adviser retires after 21 years
Few people can give legal advice to college students day in and day out for 21 years.
Friday marked Susan Ferrell’s last day as the legal services adviser for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona’s Student Legal Services. Ferrell graduated from the James E. Rogers College of Law in 1985. On March 1, 1993, she began working with the UA.
“It’s an awesome job. I started and I thought, ‘I can do this for a couple of years.’,” Ferrell said. “And then I fell in love with it. For a law job, there is really nothing to compare with it.”
According to the Student Legal Services website, the role of the legal services adviser is to “offer legal advice, information and guidance to assist you [the student] in resolving legal problems and understanding your rights and liabilities.”
For a nine-month period before Ferrell’s hire, the university did not have a legal adviser for students. This gave Ferrell the opportunity to develop the program how she desired after she was hired.
Ferrell said she believes that, other than “making pamphlets and a website,” she helped the program grow over the past 20 years by meeting with students and helping them work through their problems.
A typical day for Ferrell consisted of meeting with around eight to 10 students and advising them on issues ranging from landlord troubles to misdemeanor criminal charges.
“Sometimes, I’ve felt guilty because it’s so easy to feel good just by giving people information,” she said.
According to Ferrell, the most common legal issue she counseled students on was criminal misdemeanor charges due to underage drinking. In underage drinking cases, students must go through a standard process to take care of the ticket. No college student wants to go through hiring a lawyer to guide them through the process, and that is where Ferrell came in.
“I can spend 10 or 15 minutes talking to that student and explaining that process … and they just feel better,” she said.
Ferrell also created an FAQ page on the ASUA website to answer the most common questions regarding misdemeanor charges.
With an office located in the heart of the ASUA offices on the third level of the Student Union Memorial Center, Ferrell also credited her years of success at the university to the UA’s environment of dedicated students.
“When I started working here, I didn’t know if I’d like working with college students because I hadn’t been around them in so long,” Ferrell said. “I was so pleasantly surprised by how involved, smart, hardworking, responsible and creative they are.”
Ferrell said that she cares for each student and that she does feel a bit “parental.”
“It is completely gratifying because I get to sit here and give people advice and make them feel better, for the most part,” Ferrell said.
Ferrell said she is not sure what she will do during retirement.
“I’ve not allowed myself to make any plans because I don’t know what I’m going to feel like doing when I’m no longer working,” Ferrell said.
A sign posted next to the front desk in the ASUA offices notifies students that Student Legal Services will be at a standstill until the university hires a new adviser, making it clear that Ferrell’s shoes will be hard to fill.
“I feel really lucky to have had this job,” she said.