Guest Post by Jennie Mingming Zhan, law student at Western State College of Law, 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.
Reflecting upon my experience this May, I have to say that the best decision I made this summer was to apply and intern at Mental Health Advocacy Services. Through this internship, I was able to get an in-depth look into the world of clients with mental health disabilities and the struggles, stigmas, and challenges they face in today’s society.
This internship really sharpened my legal research and client communication skills. The clients that I worked with came from a variety of cultural, social, and educational backgrounds. Many times their experience was different from mine. Some of these differences made effective communication challenging. To be able to deliver a message to a client effectively, while being informative, educational, and sensitive, was a challenging task. During my first week, I worked with a client who had limited education and had difficulty grasping the information I needed related to her legal concern. However, after receiving some feedback from my supervising attorney, Pam Marx, I was able to ask the client those questions in an alternative but more effective way, eventually acquiring all the information needed for her case. I was also able to put my legal research skills into practice as the client had a very common, yet somewhat complicated legal issue.
This internship has not only honed all the skills and knowledge that I have learned in law school, but also taught me so many skills beyond what a classroom can provide. I learned how to be a patient person in a fast-paced working environment and a better communicator. I am thankful to MHAS for both giving me the chance to build my skills and helping me grow my knowledge by directly serving those who need help in our community.