The elation I felt when landing an internship at the non-profit legal services organization Bet Tzedek fizzled into uncertainty on the first day of orientation. Sure, I’d done my homework and knew Bet Tzedek is a huge operation including departments such as the Holocaust Reparations unit and the Employment Rights Project, but part of me, the lazy part, kept wondering if I was ready for 9-5, dress shoes and slacks after a measly one-week post-finals break.
The morning of my first day I woke up early, anxious to be on time, excited to meet my fellow Bet Tzedek interns and curious about which department I would be working in. In my eager, slightly over-caffeinated state and still gripping my to-go USC coffee mug, I followed the signs to the multipurpose room. I trotted through the large double doors and met the internship coordinator who directed me to sign in. So anxious to get going, I skipped right over my own name, my eyes flitting everywhere and missing the obvious. Finally I found my name along with my assignment: Conservatorship. Conservatorship? I did not even know what the word meant. To make matters worse, the other interns all seemed to be law students and I am an undergraduate. Surely I couldn’t be the only undergrad. Before I had time to seek out another intern my age we were asked to sit down.
Over the next three days, I did meet a few other undergraduates and I learned more about Conservatorships. The lawyer in charge clearly explained that conservatorships are for people who have some sort of disability and cannot make medical, financial, and other decisions for themselves. Those of us working in this department would assist clients who needed the legal right to make important choices for their developmentally disabled child who has turned 18 or an adult with Alzheimer’s disease or other debilitating condition.
All summer as a Bet Tzedek intern, I have worked at different clinics throughout Los Angeles. It took time to get the hang of interviewing clients and properly filling out forms with them. Navigating the complexities of the court system is no easy task, so Bet Tzedek clients who cannot afford an attorney and who may not have had any formal education really rely on our help.
It is a privilege to work for one of the most successful pro bono law firms dealing with social justice. Through helping others, I’ve learned so much. And now that I know what it is, I can say that being assigned to the conservatorship department has been a good fit.
Just before I began my internship, my grandmother passed away. During the last few years of her life she struggled with Alzheimer’s. Throughout my time at Bet Tzedek, I have dealt with many cases involving Alzheimer’s. These families are always so appreciative and I’ve been bear hugged more than a few times. I know my grandma would be proud.