by Angelita Faller
You probably recognize Caleb Conrad, a 25-year-old student at the UA Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, as part of a trio of talented Benton natives, aptly named Triple Threat, which made it to the 2015 quarterfinals of “America’s Got Talent.”
Now the singing sensation is using his talents to help Arkansans in need of a lawyer through a law clerk internship with Legal Aid of Arkansas’s Medical-Legal Partnership. The nonprofit partners with health care providers across the state to achieve lasting positive health outcomes for low-income patients and clients.
Since 2011, Legal Aid of Arkansas has partnered with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Walmart to create the first medical-legal partnership that integrates a corporate legal department into the service model. The partnership leverages the skills of the health care providers with those of attorneys who can help solve civil legal issues that impact health.
Stationed at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Conrad handles cases that involve child and adult custody issues, orders of protection, special education plans, supplemental or income benefits, and health-related legal matters.
“I’ve been to court multiple times getting adult guardianships for 18-year-olds with a condition like autism who still need care and supervision for their daily activities. That’s what the family needs,” he said. “A good attorney might charge thousands of dollars up front, and I know many families that cannot afford that much money. We try our best to equip our clients so they can best face their situation. It’s rewarding to meet these people and get that order of protection or that order of guardianship that will positively impact their lives.”
Conrad recalls one case that he feels had a huge impact on a woman’s life.
“We had an emergency case with a client who had a child being treated at Arkansas Children’s Hospital,” Conrad said. “The mother had a seizure in her child’s room. It was found that she had a massive brain tumor. She didn’t have a living will or power of attorney or guardianship for her children assigned. Sometimes, we do big things. Just being able to step in as a lawyer on that short notice without her having to pay anything was a blessing for her.”
Over the course of his internship, Conrad has recognized the void that the nonprofit fills for those who cannot afford a lawyer.
“Legal Aid provides direct legal representation to people who can’t afford it,” Conrad said. “These people wouldn’t have a voice in our legal system without the help of Legal Aid. It’s changed the way I look at things. Unfortunately, our system excludes a large portion of our population from getting what they need. We deal with a lot of low-income clients who just really don’t have a fair shake in our judicial system a lot of times. I’ve always wanted to help people. I think it’s important to try to use my legal knowledge to walk people through the system since not everyone understands the law.”
Conrad traces his strong desire to help people to the women in his family who served as his role models for public service.
“My mom is a public school teacher for K-5 students, and she grew up working at Camp Aldersgate and has always had a heart for working with people with physical and mental disabilities,” said Conrad. “Growing up with her students and seeing her having this role of stability and positivity in their lives has been very inspiring to me. My love of public service has evolved from the strong women in my life who have inspired me to take a step in that arena. Even my grandmother is off on mission trips all the time.”
When he’s not pursuing justice for others, the law student is lifting up spirits as the director of praise and worship at Asbury United Methodist Church. Set to graduate from Bowen in 2020, Conrad is also spending the summer as a student attorney at Bowen’s Delta Clinic and will travel to the state’s Delta region to provide legal assistance to low-income residents. In the fall, he’ll serve as a law clerk for Friday, Eldredge & Clark in Little Rock. Legal Aid of Arkansas’s Medical-Legal Partnership will also offer an externship to Bowen students in the spring 2020 semester.