Clinic experience leads to career in mental-health advocacy

Abhishek (Jay) Chaudhary started law school in 2006 with a vague idea of wanting to work in the not-for-profit sector. A combination of faculty support, networking, and pure hustle has landed him on the leading edge of mental health advocacy. 

“During my third year, I was in Professor Carwina Weng’s disability law clinic and interning at Indiana Legal Services in Indianapolis twice a week,” he explained. “I got interested in the legal services medical–legal partnership (MLP) model, which provides civil legal representation to mental health patients. Professor Weng became familiar with this model when she lived in Boston.” 

Chaudhary proposed setting up a MLP between ILS and Wishard Hospital, the parent of Midtown Community Mental Health Center. (Wishard and Midtown took the name Eskenazi in 2013 after a generous gift from Sidney Eskenazi, LLB’53, and his wife, Lois.) Wishard and ILS were interested, but there was one catch: Chaudhary would have to raise his own funds for the position. He wrote two grants, both of which were rejected, but was successful with the third, allowing him to launch the project on a part-time basis. In 2012, he secured funding from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust to turn the MLP into a full-time operation, and in 2014, Midtown agreed to provide funding for the project, which allowed the MLP to hire a second staff attorney.  In 2015, the Trust awarded another grant to fund the staff attorney through then end of 2016. In 2016, Indiana Lawyer named him a Rising Star as part of its annual Leadership in Law awards series.

Chaudhary spends his time consulting with Midtown’s clinical staff, making himself available to social workers and nurses as part of a comprehensive team of caregivers for the clinic’s patients. He estimates that the partnership serves about 250 clients each year, through a combination of direct legal services and consultations with clinical staff. His model is receiving national acclaim: Chaudhary and Midtown CEO Margie Payne were invited to address the plenary session of the National Medical Legal Partnership Summit. 

Chaudhary added that, through the generous support of Washington, DC attorney Susan Lynch, JD’93, the Midtown MLP has been able to host a Maurer student as a paid summer extern. 

Chaudhary has three career–planning tips for law students:

•          Use professors as a resource. “Your professors, especially the clinical profs, have a wide range of experience and are glad to have you bounce ideas off them.”

•          Hustle. “Sometimes you’ll have to raise your own funds, particularly in a tight job market. But if you’re persistent, the results will come eventually.”

•          Network. “Anytime, anywhere — and it’s never too early to get out there and do it. You might meet 99 people and nothing will come out of the meeting, but who knows? That 100th meeting might lead to a great connection.”