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Pediatric Advocacy Clinic

The University of Michigan Law School's Pediatric Advocacy Clinic will give you the opportunity to practice law in a unique, interdisciplinary medical/legal collaborative.  Your clinic experience will give you first hand experience in representing clients in a variety of civil settings.  At the same time, you will gain a broad view of the barriers faced by low-income families and work with the clinic's physician and social work partners to address these barriers with a holistic, coordinated approach.

The Pediatric Advocacy Clinic, a key component of the Pediatric Advocacy Initiative, is part of the Law School's public service commitment and is designed to improve child health outcomes by addressing legal issues that impact the health of low-income children and their families.  The clinic was started in the Fall 2004 semester and places students in pediatric health care settings to provide on-site legal advocacy assistance and training to pediatric providers and their patients.  Direct casework for clients, the bulk of students' work, includes issues such as family law, public benefits, education law, landlord/tenant disputes, domestic violence, guardianship, and other issues facing these families.  Some cases are directly related to a patient's health (e.g. negotiating with a landlord to eliminate mold caused by leaking pipes that is exacerbating a child's asthma), while others more indirectly improve a family's situation and, by extension, ease the stress on an already stressed family structure (e.g. obtaining child support for a single mother who cannot work full time because of the needs of her disabled child).

The clinic's cases range from advice and counsel to negotiation to contested litigation.  Much of the casework focuses on preventive legal advocacy, designed to identify and solve legal problems before a full blown legal dispute erupts.  For example, if a parent of a sick infant receives public assistance, she can be exempted from work requirements imposed on other welfare recipients.  Through education of our pediatric partners and direct work with clients, we can help such a parent obtain a waiver of the requirement before her benefits are suspended for failure to seek employment, rather than appeal a suspension of benefits through several months of litigation while the family is without financial assistance.

On all clinic cases, including trainings and impact projects, clinical professors supervise you, but you will do all of the work for your clients, including interviewing, counseling, legal research, discovery, negotiation, motion practice, trials and appeals.  You and your clinic partner will have first-chair responsibility for your cases and your clients.  You will work with your clients to identify and prioritize their legal issues, research their legal and non-legal options, pursue informal problem-solving, and litigate in administrative proceedings or trial courts. 

There is also an advanced clinical law program that is offered to students who have done exceptionally well in the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic.  These students return for a second semester of supervised case-work.  The advanced clinic gives you a chance to develop your lawyering skills by working on some of the more complex and sophisticated cases, as well as mentor new clinic students in their orientation to the medical sites and their direct work with clients.

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