Today I visited my client with my supervisor and a Spanish interpreter so I could meet him and update him on the progress of his case. I introduced myself to my client and shook his hand. Via the interpreter, I explained that I was the new student attorney assigned to his case and how I was in the process of collecting his updated medical information to send to Social Security. I told him that part of how I planned to accomplish this was to schedule a meeting with his social worker. I explained that once I received all of the needed information, I would send a memorandum about his case to Social Security with the goal of having his case reviewed and approved without needing to wait for a hearing. Acknowledging his frustration with the rotation of student attorneys on his case each semester, I told him that I hoped that I would be the last student attorney he would have to see. I asked him if he had any questions. He did not but stated that he wanted to be present at the meeting with his social worker and that he wanted to be kept updated about the progress of his case. I assured him that both of these things would happen. He thanked us for meeting with him, and I thanked him for speaking with us. I shook his hand one more time and told him that it was nice to meet him.
I was not sure what to expect as I was aware that sometimes my client was very lucid and cooperative while at other times, he could be irritable and confused. Colleen told me that the last time she had seen him, he did not know who she was. Also, the way that the clinic is structured, student attorneys are assigned to a case for timeframes ranging anywhere from a summer to a whole school year. The amount of time that a student attorney is assigned to a case depends on how long they choose to stay enrolled in the clinic. Given that the clinic has been working on my client’s case for about a year, he has had three student attorneys before me, which I knew frustrated him. Because of these frustrations and his fluctuating memory and mood, I was concerned about how he would respond to me. I was relieved that he responded to me favorably for his peace of mind and for mine as well. I was proud that I still knew how to apply the people skills I had acquired from past work experience to put him at ease. It was rewarding to establish some trust with him and to give him a status report on his case that he appeared to be satisfied with.
Based on this meeting, I will strive to be diligent in keeping my client informed of the status of his case as it progresses. His frustration with having more than one student attorney gives me extra incentive to not only complete my memorandum in a timely manner but also to make sure that it provides enough strong details to encourage Social Security to review and approve his case before a hearing date.