Guest post by Jonathan Wan, law student at George Washington University Law School, who participated in MHAS’ Spring internship program in May. The students assisted MHAS attorneys at our monthly free legal clinic, completed research on housing and benefit issues, and provided advocacy and intake support.

Interning at MHAS has been humbling and meaningful. Right from the first day, I was calling real clients who experience mental disabilities and challenging circumstances, trying to tease out the legally significant facts laced within clients’ emotional stories. Under the guidance of passionate and competent attorneys who genuinely care about their clients, I explained relevant law to clients, providing them some direction in difficult times. I also experienced what it was like to give bad news and tell clients that we couldn’t help them. This helped me understand the depth of the need for more legal services to help at-risk and vulnerable communities. My work at MHAS helped me understand the importance of finding a way in my future professional life of incorporating pro bono service.

Beyond interacting with current clients, I was afforded the opportunity to attend training sessions, clinics, and client outreach events, and conduct research to aid MHAS attorneys in advocating for their clients. Although the internship was only a few weeks long, I feel as though I was given an honest glimpse into what it means to represent those with mental disabilities and who have limited options and face daunting daily challenges. I very much appreciated the opportunity to see what public sector work is like and to witness the compassion of the attorneys who take on such work.