Wednesday, January 18, 2006

the little internship that could

Today I met for the first time with the attorney I've been paired with for this semester's clinical internship in disability law. We met in her apartment, which is where she currently runs her solo Social Security appeal practice. She looks like a big old dyke and she cusses like a sailor so, naturally, I love her. She spent a little too much time engaging with her two cockatiels, but I got used to it. ("Feathers in the coffee add flavor," she said, smiling, as I watched a tiny piece of fluff drift toward my mug. The bird sat on her shoulder and preened itself while it's mate sulked in the other room.)

I left after two hours with a stack of books and notebooks about a foot high. I have a lot of catching up to do, a lot of law to learn, before I'll be ready to actually do any work. And the work she describes sounds perfect. Her practice is limited to disability appeals. She's one of two attorneys in the whole state who focus solely on appeals and she told me, not boastfully, that she's quickly becoming known as an expert. I don't think I could be paired with a better attorney, given that she's doing exactly what I want to be doing after I graduate.

In addition to loving her and loving what she does, I also learned some practical tidbits about my employment prospects post-graduation that I found, personally, thrilling. For instance, with the experience I'll gain working for her, I will qualify for an Americorps placement, which will make me eligible for loan repayment. (Aka: they pay a chunk of my student loans off for me.) I will also be qualified to work for Oregon's Legal Aid which pays pretty crappy until you consider that when you work for Legal Aid your loans go into deferrment. Suddenly $30,000 a year doesn't look so bad if I'm not expected to pay about $10,000 of that to the student loan company. Legal Aid also pays for your bar exam (those run about $500) and they'll pay for two if you don't pass the first time. Then, they pay your bar membership dues and probably your malpractice insurance too, though I'm not sure about that.

It sounded too good to be true. I said, "Ok, sure, but who says legal aid will hire me?" She said, "With all your years working in mental health, plus the exprience you'll get doing appeals with me this semester, you'll be head and shoulders above any other applicant." Sounds great to me. :-) So, Legal Aid here I come! A life as a lawyer that I can feel good about! Perfect.


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