Often, during each school year the attorneys at Student Legal Services encounter troublesome ethical problems: a student seeking legal advice regarding a dispute with another UNC student.
All lawyers in North Carolina are prohibited by the Code of Professional Responsibility from assisting one client in a dispute that is adverse to the interests of another client. Each student who has paid student activity fees is entitled to our services. Since each student in this situation is an eligible client of the attorneys of the program, it would be ethically improper for a Student Legal Services attorney to assist one such client against the other.
Many students become confused and baffled by the refusal of a Student Legal Services attorney to give even the most basic advice in disputes between two students. These students will often say to us, “I know you can’t represent me in court against this student, but tell me where I stand against him. Tell me my rights.” It is nearly impossible for a lawyer to tell students in this situation where they stand legally without giving what is actual legal advice which can be used against another student.
If students find themselves in a dispute with roommates over bills or rent, or if they have been in an auto accident with a fellow student, they probably need legal advice to ensure that their interests are not damaged by their failure to take certain precautions. In these and similar situations, emotions are likely to be high and students may find it offensive that a student government service, for which he or she has paid, refuses to give any assistance.
For all students who find themselves in this position, we wish to convey the following message: please do not feel that this refusal is aimed at you personally; we will be happy to put you in contact with other organizations which may help you.