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It has been a while since I have written a “what I did this summer” essay. As I sit in front of my blank computer screen I feel the same anxiety that I felt looking at a blank sheet of loose-leaf paper on my fourth grade desk. It seems this assignment of describing a whole season of one’s life in a few meaningful sentences is as daunting a task in law school as it was in grade school. To complicate matters, I was much busier this summer than any other summer in my life. Clerking for the Homelessness Prevention Project of Los Angeles’s Public Counsel Law Center was a dynamic experience that affected me intellectually, physically and emotionally on a daily basis. The best way to share with you “what I did this summer” is to take you through one day of my work this summer. I was tempted to say I would take you through a typical day of my summer work, but quickly caught myself — there were no typical days. Each summer Public Counsel’s Homelessness Prevention Project undertakes the General Relief Advocacy Project to expose summer associates from Los Angeles law firms to public interest work through direct client advocacy at Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) Offices. The associates arrive at Public Counsel’s office in the morning to receive training in the administrative regulations governing the Food Stamp and General Relief programs. They then travel to DPSS offices to provide assistance to clients seeking to obtain or maintain these public benefits. After receiving only a week’s training ourselves, my three fellow law clerks and I began training and supervising groups of associates. I remember taking a group of associates out during my third week at Public Counsel. My friend Sunil, a fellow student, had trained the group, and I had stepped in to go through hypotheticals with them. I could tell from the group’s answers that they were going to be thoughtful advocates. I remember traveling with Andie, a fellow law clerk from Boalt, to the DPSS Civic Center office in the skid row section of downtown Los Angeles. It was one of the first times we had supervised a group on our own, and we were a bit nervous because we were going to one of the largest offices during the busiest time of the month. After distributing name tags to our group of 10 associates, we walked through the metal detectors to a packed office with only standing room left. As I led the associates to one side of the lobby, Andie made a forceful announcement that Legal Aid was here today for any one who needed assistance with GR and food stamps. A line of clients formed instantly as Andie shouted over the office din. Faced with the rush of people, I quickly started taking down names on my clipboard and matching clients with advocates. I remember standing by a doorway watching the matched groups of clients and advocates in their own corners and groups of chairs, which served as our makeshift offices in the DPSS building. The associates listened intently and wrote down information as the clients eagerly told their stories. I watched as the initial hesitancy on each side wore down, and the interactions looked less like intake sessions and more like conversations. Advocates and clients who had shaken hands solemnly upon initial introduction were hugging and high-fiving each other by the end of the day. Supervising had come easily. Andie and I offered regulations and referrals when needed, but the concern for someone who had been mistreated had guided the associates’ advocacy tactics better than we ever could have. That day we ended up helping more than 40 clients, many of whom were homeless or disabled or both. While we were leaving the office at 8 p.m., having spent seven hours advocating and waiting at the DPSS office, I asked one of the associates what she thought of her day. She told me she could not have imagined not being there because she did not want to think of what would have happened to her client had she not been there to help him. Andie and I thought about this in the car as we inched back to Public Counsel in the Los Angeles traffic. We decided we could not imagine not doing the job we were doing this summer. I also remember thinking I would not have missed the opportunity to watch a group of strangers from very opposite walks of life grow to care for and respect each other as I had at Civic Center that day. Each day of this summer was unpredictable. Each day a new set of associates would come, and we would encounter different clients at different offices. I never could predict how many clients we would see or how late we would stay at any particular office. I did, however, leave each day thinking I could not imagine not being there for the clients we helped that day. I spent my summer learning to use the law to help others under the direction of dedicated humanitarian attorneys who will remain mentors for all my life. I spent my summer training others to use their talents to help the poor and indigent of Los Angeles. I spent my summer watching stereotypes disappear and relationships form. I spent my summer thinking I could not imagine spending my time any other way.

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