The Legal Services Office was created in 1974 by the Student Government Association (SGA) and the Graduate Student Senate (GSS). The Massachusetts Legislature followed its creation with passage of legislation that specifically authorizes the UMass Trustees to establish and maintain a trust fund for student supported legal services.
From 1975 to 1986, the staff of the Legal Services Office consisted of four attorneys, two full-time professional staff, legal assistant interns, and law clerks. The office provided a wide range of legal services, including representation in both civil and criminal courts and in cases against the University of Massachusetts. This included litigation against the University and its employees.
In 1986, the Board of Trustees rescinded the authority of the office to represent students against the University and in criminal cases. Then, in 1987, the Trustees abolished the litigation authority of the Legal Services Office entirely.
In 1993, as a result of lobbying efforts by student leaders, the Trustees voted to authorize limited litigation, except in cases against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, or any of its agencies, subdivisions or instrumentalities, including the University, any municipality, or any employees, officers, trustees or agents of these entities who are acting in their official capacities. The program’s name then changed to the Student Legal Services Office. In 2000, the Trustees voted to extend limited litigation authority through 2010, which was extended by the Trustees in 2010 through 2020.