By Caroline A. Clair
My first client in the Health Law Clinic asked for my help in appealing her denial of Social Security disability benefits. She suffered from an array of physical and mental impairments, as well as financial, social and familial stressors.
When I met with the client, she didn’t state the facts of her case, her issue was not presented as a question, and I did not find my legal theory by typing her name into Google. Instead I had to create a fresh path and advocate for her claim for disability using the information that I, myself, gathered. I did all my own fact-finding, discovery, case theory formation and brief writing. And, ultimately, I presented all of this to an Administrative Law Judge.
All of this, of course, was something I could never learn in a classroom. But there was something else I learned, something I almost cannot describe. It was the experience I acquired honing in on my role as her attorney and advocate. Particularly, I had to define my role as her attorney while managing a sea of other outstanding legal problems that the client faced. All the while, I had to persuade my client to trust me.
Because of my time working with this client and others, I have a clearer, wider perspective on the legal profession and what being a lawyer means to me. I would recommend the clinical programs to any student who would like to enhance their legal education by way of not just seeing, but doing.
Caroline A. Clair JD’14 was a student attorney in the Health Law Clinic during her third year at Suffolk University Law School. She works at Health Law Advocates in Boston.