By: Steven Hendryx, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
Recently in the HeLP Clinic, our class was asked to do an exercise that required some reflection on the relationship between the legal system, lawyers, and clients. It was not terribly complicated—we were charged with creating a Venn diagram that showed the goals of each of those groups, as well as how their goals were similar or different. Though it was not complex, the exercise did make an impression on me that I think is worth discussing.
As the class finished the Venn diagrams and looked at the results of our work, we noticed several things. The intersection of the lawyer’s circle and the client’s circle showed that those groups shared many of the same goals: we both want the best outcome for the client, we both want the case/issue to be resolved efficiently, and we both want zealous, client-focused advocacy. As well, the lawyer’s circle and the legal system’s circle intersected with common goals: we want an effective legal system, we want the system to be open to everyone, and we want the system to be just. However, to almost a student, there were no shared goals between the legal system and the clients themselves.
Andrew Brown, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
“Hello, my name is Andrew Brown and I am with the HeLP Legal Services Clinic. I am taking over your case this semester. How are you?”
That’s how my first case started this semester. Cases will rarely be completed in one semester in the HeLP Clinic. Accordingly, the Clinic will have quite a few transfer cases. Matters that involve the Social Security Administration are a great example of cases that take longer than one semester to complete. When I participated in the HeLP Clinic last fall, I did not really have to deal with a transfer case. I forgot that clients may be confused by the process and what it is we do exactly.
This interaction made me think about how frustrating the whole process must be for clients. They have to deal with a different set of law students every four months and go through the entire process of explaining their case, again. I could hear the frustration in my client’s voice, especially when I asked questions that were easily answered in the file. “I already told y’all that!” Not the greatest way to start a professional relationship.
Brieanna Smith, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
Last summer, in celebration of finishing finals, my cousins and I decided to go to a concert at Lakewood Amphitheater. I was so excited to see one of my favorite artists, and spend time with my family. As the night went on, I started to get really hot. At first it was tolerable, until I started to get dizzy. I decided to go and get some water from a concession stand. As soon as I bought the water, everything went dark. A kind stranger next to me grabbed my arm just in time before I hit the ground too hard.
I panicked because I had never felt this way before. My heart was racing, and my breathing was out of control. One of my cousins helped me sit down in the grass and grabbed my hand and told me to just breathe. I did not know at the time, but I was experiencing a panic attack. The stress of three weeks of finals had taken a toll on me. My body was trying to get my attention. I had formed extremely bad habits of not eating enough or drinking enough water on top of minimal sleep. My body was exhausted, but my mind had not been listening. My cousin was eventually able to calm me down by telling me to just take deep breaths. “Just breathe,” she told me.
Laura Trejo, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
More than 80,000 Americans, including 180 young children and teenagers, died of the flu in the winter of 2017-2018, the highest number in over a decade. Children with chronic health problems such as asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders, chronic lung disease, heart disease, and blood disorders such as sickle cell disease (all common childhood illnesses we see in the HeLP Clinic) are more likely to have severe flu illnesses that result in hospitalization or death. Children younger than five years of age, and especially those younger than two, are at an increased risk of serious flu-related complications, including worsening of long-term medical problems, pneumonia, brain dysfunction, and even death.
Getting vaccinated is the easiest way our clients can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, and missed school and work days, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths in their children and themselves. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year by the end of October. For children under six months of age, the best protection against the flu is ensuring that the child’s parents and caregivers are vaccinated against the flu. However, common misconceptions about the flu vaccine may dissuade people from getting the flu vaccine or having their children vaccinated.
Mariam Slaibi, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
Take it from a fellow law student: working in the HeLP Clinic will finely tune your client interviewing skills. Initially, when I began working in the clinic, I did not believe I would need to employ the client interviewing skills that were being taught to the class. I have a background in social work, so I was under the impression that I was already familiar with everything there was to know about the latest and greatest ways to interact with clients. Boy, was I wrong.
At the end of my first client phone call, I thought I would try out one of the techniques in our assigned readings. I simply thanked the client for taking the time to speak with me and let her know I pray for her children’s health to improve with each passing day. It only took a few seconds, and I was blown away by the response. The client thanked me profusely for my kindness. In an instant, a strong rapport was established between us. In all my years interning at NGOs where I have worked closely with clients, I am sure I have been thanked at some point or another. However, I have never been thanked for my kindness and kind words before I ever met the client. After this interaction, I was grateful that I listened in class and did my assigned readings, even if I wrongly assumed I was not going to benefit.
Richard Uberto, Fall 2018 HeLP Legal Services Clinic Intern
In 1974, Congress created the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) in an effort to ensure equal justice for all Americans under the law. In the decades since, law schools and bar associations have continued to zealously promote “access to justice” initiatives aimed at our most underserved populations. Unfortunately, actual results have failed to keep pace with the lofty rhetoric.
Millions of low-income Americans still lack access to free or affordable legal counsel. The Great Recession further exacerbated the crisis, and even middle-class families simply lack the means to pay market rates that can start at $300 an hour for private law firms. Astonishingly, our legal system fails to meet roughly 80% of the civil needs of low-income Americans. This sobering figure rises even higher for the middle class, who neither qualify for legal aid nor possess the finances to secure representation. And even for those who do qualify for legal aid, representation is often limited. LSC-grantees, for instance, may not assist “undocumented aliens; aliens seeking asylum, refugee status, or conditional entrant status; or other categories of aliens who are legally in the U.S., such as students and tourists.”