COVID-19: Community Updates and Resources
Patrick Benjamin ’20 has found out that the unexpected can sometimes lead to the best learning opportunities.
Even during a global pandemic.
While at Farrell Fritz, a law firm specializing in government relations, regulatory compliance, and health care law, he was in the perfect place to learn about the fast-moving legislation surrounding COVID-19 relief on the state and national levels.
“When the pandemic hit, we were the go-to office in regard to a lot of legislation that was being passed. They had me reviewing federal and state legislation, mostly the CARES act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act,” he said. “I was writing memos and doing analysis—seeing what those bills were doing—and reviewing executive orders.”
The pandemic has ramped up stress and anxiety for many. While Benjamin notes those feelings were no stranger to him, the situation has provided a chance to put his legal education to work.
“Each day, I was writing memos and getting the key updates. It was like taking a course but this was every day and it was nonstop,” he said. “It really helped me kind of make sense of everything. A lot of people were stuck at home; there was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of anxiety. For me, it was work. I was able to put something behind it. It didn’t cause me necessarily the same level of anxiety, it was more like collecting and making sense of all the data coming out.”
That work was noticed. He was approached to contribute research support and citations for the New York State Bar Association Health Law Section COVID-19 Report—a document that encompasses ethical issues, contract- and business-related concerns, workplace issues, and other sections of the law in play during the pandemic.
His analysis made it into the final report. Specifically, his prior knowledge of the Child Care and Development Block Grant—a federal program that disburses child care subsidies to states—made the cut.
“There’s one section that’s in my unadulterated voice,” he said. “It’s nice to see my true voice in that one portion.”
Benjamin pursued a law degree after working in a social work setting, where he had the desire to advocate for people but found himself stymied.
“That’s what sparked my interest in law. Being in social work, I was working with low-income families, families of color, immigrants. I felt very limited in what I was able to do,” he said. “Part of my job was to be an advocate. And seeing issues like domestic violence, lack of access to certain services … I was frustrated and I felt like, for me, my whole life and my professional career has been in the service of the community and for others.”
He grew up in California, but the East Coast appealed to him for law school, as he would be closer to government powerhouses and decision-making entities. During his time at Albany Law School, he’s completed the Government Law Center Fellowship and has been involved with the Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA) and the American Constitution Society.
“One of the main reasons I chose Albany Law was because of the Government Law Center and the programs. I’m really interested in public service. I felt Albany Law would give me the best footing in pursuing that career,” he said. “I want to help better my community, I want to help people. I felt the best way to do that was with a law degree.”
During the fall 2020 semester, he completed a Semester in Practice placement with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. While he’s back on the West Coast for now, he hopes to pass the New York and California bars and to have networks in both areas.
“You never know where you’re going to be. You think you’ll be going one direction and you end up somewhere else. Oftentimes that’s a good thing,” he said. “If you stick your neck out, you’re much more likely to experience something you never thought of.”