Guest post by Trent Fujii, law student at Columbia University 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 was a summer law clerk at Mental Health Advocacy Services (MHAS) for summer 2017. While interning at MHAS, I was able to combine my desire to do meaningful legal research with consistent client interviewing and interaction.

As a rising 2L anticipating my summer, I wasn’t sure what types of assignments I might receive. I was gratified to be given the opportunity to work on projects that had a real and direct impact on clients’ lives and also required extensive, substantive legal research and writing, which was a goal I had set for my summer.

Trent Fujii sits listening to a client at MHAS' legal clinic

My largest project was a Supplemental Security Income (SSI) appellate brief for a child with serious developmental and behavioral disabilities that significantly limited his daily functioning. It seemed profoundly wrong that he had been denied benefits. It was rewarding to receive such a challenging and significant assignment that allowed me to utilize and hone the skills I had previously acquired during 1L moot court.

I also enjoyed assisting our clients at MHAS’s monthly clinics where I gained invaluable experience working on diverse issues, such as special education, housing rights, and Trent Fujii at Learning Works Charter School, working on a glass muralSSI eligibility. The immediate and constant client interaction was a very positive learning component of the summer that set MHAS’s program apart from other summer internships I had considered.

I enjoyed working at MHAS and I believe this experience helped further my professional development. It also helped me to better understand the challenges that many in our society face, particularly those with disabilities, who constantly battle unresponsive governmental bureaucracies with complex and confusing rules. It was gratifying to be part of the solution this summer.