Editor's note: In this issue, we introduce a new feature called "First person." In it, we will learn about the diverse practices of some of our government lawyers. Please share with us your first person account of your government service! We welcome all submissions.
Better late than never!
"Better late than never" the old expression goes, and so it was with me! After twenty years in state service as a psychologist, I decided that I wanted to take a new career direction. I wanted to be a lawyer.
As a psychologist, I knew that providing good patient care on an individual basis was a good way to find job fulfillment. After several years of doing this, I became acutely aware that doctors, psychologists, and social workers were often inhibited in their efforts to provide good patient care because of policies or procedures that were written by attorneys who were not clinicians. These policies and procedures were well written, but they did not always reflect "best practices," and at times, seemed to contradict each other. I knew I had a lot to say about this, but couldn't find a way to influence the process by continuing to work as a psychologist.
I decided that the best way to influence policies and procedures in state government was to become an attorney and find a job that would allow me to do this. I would be able to use my experience as a psychologist to help write better policies and procedures that would allow clinicians to do their jobs in the best possible way.
I currently work for The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in the Department of Human Services. OIG investigates allegations of abuse and neglect for people with mental and physical disabilities. Part of my job is helping to shape policies that apply OIG as well as writing position papers on policies that influence people with disabilities. Another part of my job is evaluating systems issues related to abuse and neglect in state operated facilities for mental health and developmental disabilities. These systems issues generally surround the internal policies and procedures of the facilities.
So, I am doing what I set out to do. Although my job title is not "attorney," I am one, and my training has helped me make DHS a better place for people with disabilities. I am looking forward to a long, satisfying career as an attorney with the perspective of a psychologist. Although law school could be described as, well, the worst three years of my life, I don't regret it a bit!