This past summer I was an extern at the Medical-Legal Partnership of Oregon (MLPO), a nonprofit organization designed to provide free civil legal services to low-income populations in Portland through an integrative model that combines both health services and targeted legal intervention. MLPO aims to address health and legal needs holistically, because research has shown that 1 in 6 people in the U.S. needs legal care to be healthy, and that 60% of health outcomes are affected by social, environmental, or behavioral factors.
The MLPO is partnered with the OHSU Richmond clinic to train medical professionals at the clinic to identify patients with health-harming legal issues, who are then referred to the legal team at the MLPO for legal counsel. MLPO attorneys meet the clients at the clinic, to increase client comfort and reduce transportation barriers. As an extern, my responsibilities included attending client interviews and meetings, following up with clients over the phone or e-mail, drafting letters to clients, drafting demand letters, performing legal research, and pulling records from the courthouse. MLPO was finishing its pilot year while I was an extern for them, so I also helped MLPO file for tax-exempt status with the IRS.
My experience at MLPO was positive and meaningful. I was given enough responsibility to feel challenged and stimulated, but the MLPO staff members and volunteers were always available for questions and very kind. I felt like I was an integral part of the work we all did. From my perspective, the most valuable part of my externship was the client interaction I was able to experience. I learned a lot about my own communication skills, and I also found that my legal research benefited from being present in the client meetings. I conducted several client intake interviews alone, and I became much more comfortable and competent speaking with clients and keeping all of their respective issues organized. I really enjoyed following up with clients and developing relationships with them.
I would highly recommend this externship to other students. MLPO really utilizes their externs and it was an amazing learning opportunity. MLPO was an excellent place to have my first professional-legal experience.