Seattle Community Law Center
Alexandra Kain is interning at Seattle Community Law Center (SCLC) this summer with their Social Security Advocacy Project. SCLC is a local non-profit legal aid organization that provides social security advocacy for people with disabilities who are homeless or low income.
July 29, 2013
By the end of July I've already finished my internship for the summer. I received a part-time PILF grant and worked for six full weeks straight after finals. Even though my internship was shorter than most, I feel like I've gained a huge wealth of knowledge and experience. I couldn't be happier with my first legal internship.
I spent my internship with Seattle Community Law Center — an organization serving individuals with disabilities facing disputes with Social Security. I worked primarily with individuals that Social Security had determined to have overpaid, either because they were believed to be no longer disabled or no longer in need of financial support. As a small legal aid organization, I had opportunities for lots of client contact, as well as being able to see cases at all different stages. I worked with clients at all points in their interactions with Social Security, from issue spotting during intakes to closing cases with successful outcomes.
On one of my very first days I had the chance to attend a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. My supporting attorney filled me in briefly before the hearing and I had the chance to ask questions after. Previously, I had only observed public hearings at the county and federal courthouses. I learned that administrative hearings are much more intimate and personal. The judge, the attorneys, and the claimant all sat around a table together. I also learned the nature of administrative hearings — judges act as both arbiters and representatives of government agencies. This was an experience I could not have gotten through attending public hearings.
I also attended a personal conference with a client and their Social Security representative. This gave me the opportunity to see first-hand what my clients face during interactions with Social Security. This helped me inform future clients on what to expect if they hadn't gotten to this step yet.
One regular project I worked on was the Overpayment Clinic. Every Tuesday SCLC holds a clinic for people who are facing overpayments, which occur when Social Security believes that they have overpaid a benefit recipient and are seeking recovery. At the beginning of the clinic we provided general information about Social Security overpayments. Then we split up and worked with clients individually. I was able to assist clients from beginning to end in one day.
Another great part about my internship was that my supporting attorney brought me along to all the CLEs she attended. In just a few short weeks I attended a KCBA CLE on communication and a Northwest Justice Project CLE on bias.
Its been a great experience working with SCLC this summer. I especially loved being involved with a smaller legal aid organization. Not only was my supporting attorney available to guide me, the other attorneys, paralegals and even the director always welcomed me whether I was asking about client's issue or a local lunch spot. I would highly recommend an internship with SCLC to anyone.