Medical-Legal Partnership: Evolution or Revolution?

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More than 235 hospitals and health centers in the United States and Canada partner with more than 90 legal aid organizations to provide legal help to patients in multiple medical disciplines such as pediatrics, family medicine, oncology, geriatrics, and internal medicine.

Multiple law and medical schools are affiliated with medical-legal partnerships (MLPs) and many residency programs incorporate MLP curriculum into their graduate medical education. n1 Dozens of recent law school graduates have been funded through Equal Justice Works and Skadden fellowships to create or enhance MLPs. The MLP model has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) and the American Medical Association (AMA). In 2010 the Health Besources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funded three MLP pilot projects and, on July 29, the bipartisan Medical-Legal Partnership for Health Act, calling for a nationwide demonstration project for MLP, was introduced in the U.S. House of Bepresentatives and the Senate. The MLP model is rapidly creating a new standard of practice for vulnerable populations.

Here we examine why so many lawyers–especially those associated with legal aid, law schools, the private bar, and hospital general counsel–are collaborating with health care providers to deliver health-promoting legal services to low-income persons. We describe the history of the legal and medical professions and present context for their respective commitments to serving vulnerable people. We discuss what these professions have in common, how they differ, and the barriers they must overcome to collaborate. We paint a comprehensive picture of the MLP model and how it works, describe the impact of MLP on legal services, health care delivery, and public policy, and explain how transformation of professional practice can result in substantial investments in legal services by health care institutions. With long-term experience in legal services, national and state bar associations, law school clinical teaching, the private bar and health care practice, we present diverse perspectives.

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Clearinghouse Review: Journal of Poverty Law and Policy



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MeSH Keywords

Jurisprudence; Poverty; Intersectoral Collaboration