First Coop!

I wasn’t sure how I would feel on my first coop after spending so much of my life in school, but I love it so far. When I joined Boston Medical Center’s Medical-Legal Partnership I was assigned to the income supports team. The Medical Legal Partnership is a joint effort between lawyers and doctors over at BMC to provide problem solving for both medical issues and life issues (like income, housing, immigration and education) all of which have implications for health outcomes. On the income team, we help clients struggling with any and all concerns related to life’s financial aspects such as Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, Food Stamps, WIC, and Social Security. In the last two weeks I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about advocating for clients in the Social Security Insurance System. I can’t believe how much quicker you grasp things when they are in a real world context rather than being lectured or read from a casebook.

Another thing my coop is helping me notice is how much different areas of law overlap. When studying in classes, each topic seems so separate from the next. On my coop, however, as I was getting my footing with some housing issues, I started to realize that the reasonable accommodation required and the process of asking for and receiving one, is much the same as the reasonable accommodation I had learned about in employment discrimination. So while this coop is geared toward Health Law and Poverty Law, I’m also finding myself using skills I never thought would be applicable in this setting and learning about areas of law that at first glance didn’t seem to be relevant to this coop.

I’ve also had the opportunity on my coop to research the history of welfare reform for a textbook one of the staff attorneys is working on and will be getting research assistant credit in the book. As I was researching for the project, I couldn’t help but think how much I was learning, and again, how fast I was learning it. In a few hours I had a two inch stack of research and later had written a pretty comprehensive paper. If I had been in a class, I likely would have studied for much shorter stints and yet the semester would have culminated in a similar paper. Instead, I spent a little over a week intensely immersed in the topic and was able to produce much the same result and have gained a lot of similar knowledge. It really is crazy how fast things move on coop.

The other big change is my day to day schedule. Working 9-5 is both less stressful and yet somewhat more exhausting than being in classes though in a very different way. My commute to work is much longer and every day is somewhat similar requiring sustained attention for 8 hours a day whereas in classes, things varied a lot from day to day and classes ran for less than 2 hours. So while I am busy for longer periods of sustained time each day, I’m also never bringing work home and don’t have the burden of worrying about school work that’s hanging over my head all the time.

The best change: Weekends are completely free time! I spent this past one apple picking at Cider Hill Farms. It is about an hour north of Boston and I went with some friends who I don’t get to spend as much time with when classes are in session. We had a great time eating cider donuts, tasting all of the varieties of apples, and enjoying the warm fall weather.

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