Monday, March 2, 2015

Applying for Public Assistance: A Lawyer's Journey

At some point in a messy divorce where your ex has stolen all the marital assets & decided to toss you out like garbage, you reach a point of last resort. You realize that you're going to have to do certain things to take care of yourself. One of those things you may choose to do is apply for public assistance i.e. welfare. I choose to call it public assistance since I am not a victim, do not seek to be on anyone's dime for the rest of my life & if you call me lazy, I'll punch your pampered little face so hard you'll never look normal again.

As you read this, think about your assumptions concerning public assistance & welfare. Now put those aside & look at reality.

Do you think a lawyer would never be put in this position? I suggest you take your head out of your ass & join us in the real world where the legal employment market is known for being "terrible" by those in the know i.e. people doing the actual job hunting and looking at ads. The ones who weren't born to money or bought their way into a high class rank or T1 law school.

My reasons for applying were numerous & one of them included actual need. The application process is not a bad thing. They put me in their Back 2 Work program & I even said that was fine since it's not that I don't want to work. Read that statement again if you are one of my nosy haters: I have no issue at all with working itself.

What I have an issue with is doing work that makes me feel degraded, demeaned, utilizes none of my actual skills & is simply a waste of my time due to salary, intelligence, workplace atmosphere, that type of thing. Would YOU do work fitting that category? If so, you are a damn idiot.

I am also not a person who responds to being treated like a 6 year old or like some victim you get to terrorize. This is true for just about everyone but doubly so if you're dealing with an intelligent person. In about 2 seconds of meeting me, everyone always tells me I'm smart and pretty.

When I started out, I figured the process would be degrading and humiliating. I expected obscene bureaucracy, rudness at every corner, no rational human beings for miles, nannying on a regular basis, that kind of thing.

The applying process itself & the Back 2 Work program process wasn't bad in my opinion. Yes, you should bring something to do & ideally either have something not based on power like a smartphone or an external charger so if your phone dies, you can charge it without needing a working outlet. I've spent much of my time writing and doing a word search puzzle book. Writing is a good catharsis for me but I need a huge one today.

The people I've dealt with at the Back 2 Work center get it. They get that some of us are smart, that aspects of the program aren't addressing our needs & we aren't benefited by customer service training or food handling certifications. I have 7 years of retail from high school & college. I am a partner in a business. I could teach a class on customer service skills; I am the last person who needs training in that.

I weigh 105 pounds & can lift about 20 without killing myself. Not the person you ask to do a heavy lifting job.

I am not mechanically inclined, am terrified of most insects, have sensitivity to strong odors & will likely throw up if I'm around something rank, have zero maintenance/manual labor experience (it's beneath my first jobs even off the books) and am probably the last person who should be doing that type of work. Not to mention I was told outright by someone who had me doing such tasks that I "am not a housekeeper."

Who would want to supervise someone who is so incompetent, ill equipped and just disinterested in such tasks? In what universe would putting someone like that in such a job be a good idea for anyone involved?

I'd heard clerical was a possibility which is not something I'd object to doing for public assistance benefits but I AM a licensed attorney.

NY state recently instituted a 50 hour pro bono requirement for all new attorneys. There's been all this talk about the accessibility gap due to attorney fees vs. potential clients. AND there's an overage of attorneys.

So if an attorney is on public assistance & has to work in order to receive them as required by the state, why in the Hell is that attorney NOT being assigned to work as an attorney in the court house or for a legal aid organization or for some private legal services group like the bar associations or some other program? Why are taxpayer funds being spent toward an attorney, licensed by the very same state instituting this work requirement, picking up garbage, doing maintenance tasks or even doing a clerical position having zero to do with that attorney's license to practice?

I know we don't have a surplus of public interest attorneys; you hear NOTHING about public interest work except how there are shortages & these organizations would love the help but don't have the salary to pay people.

Why is the state not doing something about this immediately? Let me also note some of these public interest jobs aren't exactly glamorous or things many attorneys really want to do. I'd actually not mind doing it since I come from a lower income world & now that I'm doing this experience, will be a far better public interest attorney than anyone else since I'll have actually LIVED it + could give someone practical tips about the process that most attorneys won't have a clue about. I also feel better helping others & it will give me perspective about my own troubles.

Who the hell came up with this gross misallocation of resources or thinks it's a good idea? Not a single person I have spoken to about this at the job center or at HRA thought it made sense. Not a single person who's actually listened when I presented this said "Yeah, we should waste everyone's time and resources in this way."

Who are these higher ups, these changemakers I should talk to about this? I want to know. The Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services hasn't bothered contacting me so I don't think they really give a shit about helping the underserved or putting legal service providers in touch with them.

The bar association presidents I have contacted in Manhattan do not give a shit about attorneys who can't afford their licensing fees or people being on public assistance. There is no legal "community" at all in my eyes & you have to wonder why any attorney would waste their time paying dues to an organization that will invest in fancy buildings and expensive parties but won't even create a fund for those attorneys down on their luck for whatever reason: drug/alcohol addiction, health concerns or simply marrying a total asshole who ripped the rug out from under you during a very hard time in your life.

That, if you have a shred of reading comprehension or common sense, should fucking explain in no uncertain terms why I feel there is ZERO legal community & think it's a total crock to hear anyone use that phrase.

Meanwhile, the people I have dealt with in this time have been kind and sympathetic to my situation vs. being the type of asshole trying to make you feel worse or throw you under the bus. I have also talked to people at this job center to find that apparently I am not the only person being underserved here or getting assigned to do tasks she has no aptitude, experience or interest in.

However, I might be the only person with enough bees in her bonnet and anger coursing through her to go make a huge public stink & attack the issue with the same gusto and verve that I used in dealing with other seemingly impossible fights other people wouldn't have taken on. I might be the only lady with a track record of fighting arbitrary, unfair policies imposing what I consider undue harm unto me. People hearing about that history never question why I'm an attorney.

As I've said before, I consider prostitution and stripping less degrading for me than doing manual labor. At least there I'd make real money & use some actual skills I have vs. doing something I not only hate with every fiber of my being but am not even good at.

If I joined the military, I wouldn't be doing front line infantry grunt work. They'd put me in JAG. The military knows that people aren't going to give their all or bother with something they are ill-suited for or think is beneath them. Why doesn't NY state or any other place with such ridiculousness get that?

Do I think manual labor is beneath me? Yes, I do. Ask any attorney whether they'd give up their legal job to work as a housekeeper or do custodial work for strangers at the average rate of pay for those jobs. I'm pretty sure zero would do that.

Ask any retail sales associate if they'd give up their retail job to work as a housekeeper or do custodial work for strangers at the average rate of pay for those jobs. I'm sure you'd get the same answer.

Just for the record, not MY fault or MY actions that caused all this. Look to my deadbeat soon to be ex-husband if you want to find fault here. If you think I planned or caused this shit, then you are a pampered, spoiled, piece of garbage who's never lived & deserves whatever karma feeds to them. I want you to suffer on the level of Job if you dare to assign blame to me or judge me in any fashion over what I have to do in order to survive and not let my shitty ex-husband or his relatives take everything I worked for away from me. I may not be religious but I do know my Baptist faith, thank you very much.

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