The Pediatric Advocacy Clinic (PAC), was one of the first medical-legal partnerships to be based in a law school clinical setting. Through this partnership, students are able to reach families most in need of legal assistance, including immigrant and limited English proficient (primarily Spanish-speaking) families, and become part of a team working to improve child health. Casework includes domestic violence and family law, special education, public benefits and low-income housing. Students in the clinic are involved in all aspects of a case and learn a range of advocacy skills, from preventative legal advocacy (focusing on identifying issues at an early stage and on developing creative, multidisciplinary approaches to addressing them) to traditional litigation skills in both adminsitrative and trial court settings.
What Experiences Do Students Gain in the Clinic?
Hands-on litigation practice. The PAC practices at both the federal and state level—in courts, administrative agencies, and local school districts. Student participation can occur at any stage of litigation—from conducting initial pre-filing discovery to representing a client in a hearing to post-trial motions and appeals.
Clients with an incredible array of legal issues. Some cases are directly related to a patient's health, while others more indirectly improve a family's situation, and by extension, ease the strain on an already stressed family structure. Students may find themselves preventing a landlord from evicting a mother with two kids, prosecuting the wrongful denial of food assistance to a working family, or obtaining a personal protection order for a 16-year-old pregnant woman.
Multidisciplinary advocacy. A central tenet to the medical-legal partnership model, multidisciplinary advocacy might mean attending meetings with teachers, administrators, and opposing counsel in special education cases, or ghost writing a letter for a health care provider to keep a client's electricity from being shut off. Sometimes, it's as simple as taking the time to do a little Internet research on a child's medical condition in order to ask the right questions when we meet a client for the first time.
Direct client contact. A semester with PAC is not just for student attorneys interested in a career in poverty law, or even for those interested in direct client services. For students who might be interested in impact litigation or policy work at some point in their careers, PAC is a great place to see how the current law works (or doesn't)—particularly for students interested in women's, children's, or immigrants' rights.
NPR: Gap Watch: How Schools Treat Students with Physical Disabilities vs. Emotional Disabilities (June 2015)
NPR: When the Doctor's Prescription is a Lawyer (May 2015)
Law Quadrangle Notes: Doctor's Orders: Call Your Lawyer (Spring 2015)
Links to Medical-Legal Partnerships Across the Country
National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership
Health Law Partnership
Project Heal at Kennedy Krieger Institute
Podcast: Listen to physicians from across the U.S. talk about how medical-legal partnerships positively impact their patients and clinical practice.
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