Working in EBCLC’s Health and Welfare Clinic during both a full-time summer term and a spring semester was probably the most enriching experience I had while at Berkeley Law. My time at EBCLC has given me insight into the ups and downs of working as an attorney in public interest, and I was lucky enough to work alongside compassionate, capable attorneys, paralegals, and fellow students that helped me develop and inspired to become not only a better lawyer, but a better person.
EBCLC showed me what a healthy office environment should be. I learned to support and be supported by the other members of my clinic. During my spring semester with EBCLC, I sustained a concussion while playing soccer. Even though they had more than enough work of their own, my comrades in Health and Welfare encouraged me to take a few days off to recover and covered for me while I was not at my best. I am deeply grateful not only that they were willing to shoulder that burden, but also that they cared enough about me to notice that I was not right and needed to take better care of myself. EBCLC showed me that it is possible to work in an environment where you and your coworkers are more than just cogs in a machine, solely focused on each person’s individual work.
My time at EBCLC also offered the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills, especially in dealing with clients. When I started at EBCLC, I was uncomfortable talking for long periods of time on the phone, and even more shy when it came to meeting face to face with clients. By the end of my time at EBCLC, I had great relationships with my clients and felt at ease talking on the phone with clients, doctors, and agency officials. Through performing intake and meeting one on one with clients, I learned what questions to ask and how to gain a client’s confidence in order to figure out how best to offer assistance. I also learned how to strike a balance between being a compassionate advocate for my clients while still establishing the boundaries necessary to maintain an appropriate advocate-client relationship.
During my ~30 weeks working at EBCLC, my supervising attorney and the other long-term members of Health and Welfare offered support where I needed it while also encouraging me to explore and grow independently. I performed legal research on things like rent control ordinances and medical conditions/records necessary to qualify for SSI benefits. I appeared for clients at informal hearings before a Rent Adjustment Program Administrative Law Judge and a Social Security official. I did work as part of EBCLC’s medical-legal partnership with UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital and staffed name and gender change workshops. Working at EBCLC exposed me to a wide variety of issues and helped me develop a broad skillset that will serve me well as a I embark as a fledgling lawyer. Most of all, EBCLC taught me how good it feels to do work that helps people.
I am so happy and proud to have been a part of EBCLC. I want to thank Liam, Ingrid, Nora, Daniel, Erin, Jelitza, Asher, Rosa, and everyone else I worked with. It was a special experience and the highlight of time in law school.
Written by Penn Scoble
University of California, Berkeley School of Law Class of 2021
East Bay Community Law Center Health & Welfare Clinical Student