Guest Post by Johnny Lok, law student at University of Kansas School 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.
My three weeks at Mental Health Advocacy Services were more than just educational. It was an enjoyable experience that taught me valuable skills that I will use for my legal practice in the future. Originally, I asked to work for two weeks; however, I requested, and was generously granted, an additional week because I wanted to continue partaking in the practical training MHAS provided. Pam Marx and all of the other supervising attorneys were very receptive and provided excellent guidance. Much of the time was dedicated to taking and resolving intakes, but there was also a plethora of research and writing opportunities in many areas such as housing, employment, and veterans’ issues. One topic I researched was whether the Social Security Administration can garnish from Veterans’ Benefits in order to pay off federal debt.
We also traveled frequently with the attorneys to worthwhile events for fair housing and mental health concerns. I felt that my efforts and work had an impact, and that I made positive differences in my interactions with the clients and the organization. At one event in Pasadena, I worked closely with an attorney from Orrick, Herrington, & Sutcliffe, LLP to devise a letter and strategy for a client to dismiss a citation. The client was incredibly thankful and noticeably relieved knowing that she now has a strong case and plan to finally settle an issue that has bothered her for many years. Even simply informing her that she was unlikely to go to jail for her traffic violation years ago was enough to lift a significant weight from her mind, and made her more likely to try to resolve the matter with the court.
I believe that during my time at MHAS, I gained a truly in-depth view of the work and experiences of attorneys working in a non-profit organization. I attained a greater appreciation and understanding for the situations and circumstances of those affected by mental health issues.