Guest post by Madeline Suchard, law student at UCLA Law School, who participated in MHAS’ summer internship program. Student interns’ activities include conducting client intake interviews, drafting SSI appeal briefs, assisting veterans to resolve warrant and ticket issues, and doing research and advocacy in special education and fair housing.

I started my summer at Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS) armed with a passion for mental health advocacy. I am ending my time at MHAS with that same passion but with a greater understanding of what it means to be an effective representative for individuals with mental health disabilities.

During my summer clerkship, I connected with community members from all walks of life. I spoke directly with low-income clients, both over the phone and during monthly free legal clinics, to address the challenges they faced, no matter how small. I collaborated with supervising attorneys to find the solutions to client concerns and to provide resources and training for individuals who would otherwise be unaware of their rights. Throughout the summer, I saw mental health advocacy in action, whether it was through courthouse visits or in-depth discussions with members of the Los Angeles public interest community during weekly brown-bag talks at local institutions.

At MHAS, I dove into legal research and writing from the very first day of my summer clerkship. During the summer, my research was not limited to a specific practice area but encompassed a variety of issues, ranging from fair housing restrictions in the city of Los Angeles to the Fair Credit Reporting Act. I even had the opportunity to transform my research on Social Security Disability Benefits into a training for my fellow clerks, sharing my findings in a way that allowed all of us to better serve clients with disabilities.

My summer at MHAS has been one of the highlights of my law school career. I am incredibly grateful for such a transformative experience and am excited to begin a new school year armed with the tools I need to be a better scholar and a more effective advocate.