Clinical diagnosis



For those who have never taken a clinical, the Office of Clinical Programs (OCP) requires each student to keep a journal to, “reflect on your clinical experience and how you feel about the work you are doing.” Apparently, OCP feels that, “experience without reflection does not lead to learning or growth.” These are actual quotes from the Handbook for Clinical Students. As I am motivated by neither learning nor growth, I submitted the following for my first journal entry. It has been edited only to shorten the length.

Journal #1 – 9/22/2004

I was nearly detained as an enemy combatant before my clinical even began. Upon arriving at the JFK Federal Building in downtown Boston, I realized that I hadn’t removed the small Leatherman pocket knife from my keychain. This prompted the guards at the door to search me after I passed through the metal detector, but luckily I was able to explain that the errant wires in my bag were nothing more than computer cables. The bagel I brought for lunch seemed not to arouse suspicion.

Upon entering the office of the solicitor, I was greeted by the dim-witted grin of our commander-in-chief, the evil grin of our vice president, and the startled gaze of token cabinet appointee Elaine Chao, Secretary of Labor. [For those who have never been to a government office, they often hang a picture of the President and ranking cabinet members in the lobby.] I wonder how much it costs our government to print these photos for every government agency across the country. I wonder if they’re required by law to display them. I wonder if this is what is meant by idolatry.

This would be my first experience working for our vast government bureaucracy. My closest experience to date was working for Legal Aid in Detroit, Michigan, but since Legal Aid is really an independent group that receives (very little) federal funding, and since only bleeding heart liberals work for Legal Aid, they really have very little in common with a government agency. Evidence of the differences was readily apparent. There is an 8.5 x 11″ picture of the Twin Towers posted on the wall of my cubicle, and the background of the computer in the cubicle in front of me is a picture of President Bush stepping out of a jet on an aircraft carrier to proclaim “Mission Accomplished.” I don’t think the owner of the computer was aiming for irony.

I arrived a little early, but luckily the office secretary came in shortly after me. She informed me that they probably wouldn’t give me an office, or a computer password, or a security badge, since all of these would take far too long to procure and I was only there for a short period of time. Luckily, one of the attorneys was able to prevail upon her to get me a computer password so that I could do legal research. It took about 5 minutes for my password to be created.

My cubicle isn’t quite as nice as the office I had at my law firm over the summer. I have a computer, and about three square feet of desk space. I sometimes pretend that the picture of the Twin Towers is a window, but then I cry when I remember how I watched them fall down.

I don’t have many other impressions yet. I’m looking forward to having real work to do, but I also think it’s a bit unfair that if I had chosen to take a three credit class I would have only needed to work maybe 5 or 6 hours a week tops, whereas here I will work 15 hours a week. It is also difficult to come home after an 8-hour day of work and read 50 pages of Administrative Law or Federal Courts. Finally, I wish that I could do a clinical (or a clerkship) instead of writing my third year paper. I don’t know why law school is so geared toward becoming an academic when it is supposed to be a professional degree. I suppose I won’t be the first third-year student with motivation problems.

Overall, though, the people were nice, the work is acceptable, and the hours manageable. I couldn’t ask for much more than that, except maybe a salary.

Jon Lamberson is a 3L who’s working 15 hours a week for three credits. Don’t you feel bad for him?

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