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When Andrew Creary ‘19
and James McAuley ‘18 represented their client, an HIV positive, physically
and mentally disabled young woman who sought the legal services of the Albany Law School
Health Law Clinic, both knew that this opportunity was going to be challenging, but also
would allow them the ability to make a meaningful difference in the life of their client.
Both Andrew and James
came from a health science background before attending law School. James worked at
the New York State Department of Health and Andrew as a biology major in college, and
both say that they wanted to use the skills they gained from their backgrounds and apply
them to the legal profession—specifically, in the field of Health Law.
During the spring 2018
semester, James and Andrew were enrolled in the Health Law Clinic, working
under the supervision of Professor Joe Connors. Their client had sought a Social Security
Disability Benefit, given to those who cannot work due to their physical and/or mental condition.
After being denied, the client turned to the Health Law Clinic for help. Andrew and James
took the case and over the semester worked hard to prepare for their client’s second hearing
in the hopes that this time her request would be granted. After spending dozens of
hours conducting legal research, honing their arguments on behalf of their client, they
submitted a 19-page brief to the court.
In addition, they
sought formal input from their client’s doctors, who gave their opinion on how
their patient’s disabilities would negatively impact her quality of life. This
evidence, James and Andrew said,
was crucial in proving their client’s case. In April 2018, at the conclusion of the
hearing, the court granted their client the Social Security Disability Benefits she had long sought.
The court awarded the client four years of back payments as a result of her inability to work
as well as the benefits moving forward, a judgment that reportedly is rare in these types of
“We have spent a lot of time in class over three years learning a lot
about the law,” said Andrew. “Working with a real client on a real case,
writing a brief and participating in a hearing certainly brought to life the
class work we have been doing.”
“Working on this case demanded a lot of time and energy,” said
James. “Many hours went into reviewing the voluminous records, contacting
the client’s doctors to obtain opinions on the disability factors most
important to the Social Security Administration, writing the brief, and preparing
for the hearing itself. But seeing our
client’s reaction after we received a favorable determination made all the time
we spent working at the clinic worth it.”
recently graduated from Albany Law School, took the Bar Exam this summer and
awaits his results, while Andrew has started
his third and final year.