Home Campus Pat McGee to retire from the Center for Student Legal Services this summer

Pat McGee to retire from the Center for Student Legal Services this summer

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Patrick McGee

After years of helping students with landlord troubles, underage drinking charges, and more, managing attorney of CSLS Pat McGee will leave his spot this summer.

Pat McGee will retire from the Center for Student Legal Services (CSLS) later this year after 19 years of service.

McGee joined the CSLS in 2000 after leaving a local public defender’s office where he handled criminal cases.

The CSLS offers Ohio University students legal representation and advice as long as they enroll in the program by paying a $12 fee at the beginning of each semester.

Zak Dobben, an Ohio U student and receptionist at the CSLS, felt it’s important students have access to this kind of program.

“I think it’s a great resource for a low cost, and it’s valuable because as a student you’re completely clueless and don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into,” Dobben said.

Student Senate started the CSLS in 1997, making Ohio U the second school in Ohio to offer this unique legal service. During that time, McGee said there was a national trend of universities wanting to offer legal aid to their students.

“Nationally, students and the administration were figuring out students had problems with landlords, police, all sorts of stuff and could use a lawyer to help them,” McGee said. “But lawyers are expensive.”  

McGee found a shift in his purpose once he began representing students. He felt it was no longer just about proving guilt or innocence; students needed him to be more than just an attorney and act as a counselor.

“I sympathize with what people are going through, and I’m able to show them a bit of compassion as well as empathy,” McGee said. “I like to think I make a difference in their lives.”

Ian Billig, one of the “Baker 70” protestors, said he was grateful when McGee showed up to Baker University Center the night 70 Ohio U students were arrested for protesting.

“He was home enjoying his evening and came around 10 or 11 to help us,” Billig said. “He was a guiding force that night, he gave us legal advice and told us the community had our back.”

Billig felt that McGee hasn’t just served students but the Athens community as well.

“I admire his dedication to the community as a whole, I see him at marches, protests,” Billig said. “You can tell he really cares about not only the students, but also the marginalized people in the Athens area.”

McGee said one of his favorite parts of the job has been educating students on their rights. He believes a lot of trouble can be avoided if students are aware of how to handle themselves in legal matters.

Once he retires, McGee hopes the center will continue to emphasize the educational aspects of the legal services they provide.

“We’re on a real good path. I’d like to see more of educating students in advance so they know what to do if they’re confronted by either police or landlords,” he said.

“We used to use as a motto ‘your best friend on campus — CSLS,’  and you know that’s really true because we’re there for you,” McGee said.

McGee recommended that current staff attorney, Kimberlee J. Francis, fill his position once he leaves, noting that she understands students and their problems.

Francis has been with the center for five years, handling mostly civil cases such as housing issues, but also has experience with criminal cases.  

After graduating from law school, she worked for Southeastern Ohio Legal Services, which mainly handles civil cases like housing and consumer issues.

“Our students face very similar situations, like landlord-tenant civil situations, and they need assistance,” Francis said.

“I found this as a wonderful opportunity to go off what I previously learned when I first got out of law school.”

Her goal, similar to McGee’s, is to take a proactive approach and educate students in both civil and criminal matters before they get into trouble and to minimize legal repercussions should they get into trouble.

“We’ll miss Mr. McGee and what he’s done for the center and what he does for our students, but I believe we’re all up for the challenge and continue where McGee started,” Francis said.

The final decision on who will replace McGee will be made by the CSLS’ board of directors, which is composed of students.

The CSLS will also have to renew its contract with the university for another five years in July, in order to keep running. The center is asking for an enrollment fee of $15 instead of $12 this year.

Once McGee retires in July, he will still serve on city council until Dec. 31.

He hopes to use his time after that traveling and focusing on music — he plays mainly bagpipes and the harp, and has even made a CD of his music.

Even in retirement, McGee hopes to continue his public service.

“I’d like to do something that would have an impact and benefit people, of course I’ll still stay committed to the cause, “the resistance”— whatever you wanna call it,” he said. “I’d like to see if there’s something I could do to contribute in a different way.”

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