Not Just Another Pair of Suits

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?”

“Who?”

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.

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Just Breathe

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.

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Severe Illness: Not Just a Flu-ke

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.

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Improving Rapport by Improving Client Interviewing Skills

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.

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The Missing Ingredient to Close the Justice Gap

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.”

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A Brief Discussion on Regulation of the Medical Profession and Informed Consent

By: Scott Robertson, Spring 2018 Intern, HeLP Legal Services Clinic

In the United States, regulation of the medical profession began around 1684 when colonial law in New York prohibited the practice of medicine “without the advice and consent of such as are skillful in the said Arts.” More recently, the Supreme Court has left this authority to the states by recognizing that the police powers reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment justify state regulation of trades involving the public health. Through these powers, states have the ability to both regulate healthcare and to form medical boards, which function as state agencies.  State medical boards, consisting mostly of actively practicing physicians, regulate the practice of medicine by defining the scope of what constitutes a medical practice, establishing licensing requirements for physicians, and instituting disciplinary measures.  Medical boards may discipline physicians for any departure from or failure to conform to the minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice and for treatment or diagnostic procedures that are detrimental to the patient as determined by the minimal standards of acceptable medical care. A medical board may provide discipline by placing physicians on probation; administering public reprimands; suspending, limiting, and revoking licenses; imposing fines; and other statutory punishments.

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The Dwindling Access to Medical and Legal Care in Rural America

By: Ragan Morrison, Spring 2018 Intern, HeLP Legal Services Clinic

Before I began working in the HeLP Clinic, I was vaguely aware of what is a growing crisis in our country—the lack of access to medical services in rural communities.  This issue has received at least some news coverage, and I knew the medical community has been seeking solutions, but it is still a rather hidden problem.  Given the urban-centric awareness of the American “intelligentsia” and the fact that most people in the U.S. do live in cities or metro areas, this is understandable, but as the baby-boomer generation grows older this problem will only get worse.  What I had not considered before, but have come into direct contact with through the clinic, is the parallel loss of access to legal help.

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