Students' Legal Assistance was opened in the fall of 1972 as a result of the leadership of the NIU Student Association and progressive support of the NIU administration. The program was born of the idea that it is vitally important to make available legal assistance to the thousands of NIU students who, because of economic inability, would otherwise be unable to participate in the due process system.  

For over twenty years, the attorneys worked as independent contractors, becoming University employees in 1993 pursuant to a “Shared Governance Agreement” entered into between the university and the Student Association. The Shared Governance Agreement created the Students' Legal Assistance Review Committee composed of the students and university administrators who provide programmatic oversight. Students' Legal Assistance is funded entirely by student activity fees as allocated by the Student Association and is part of the Division of Student Affairs, which provides administrative support and guidance.