Health Law Clinic

Course Catalog Number:
Course Credits:
Course Type:
Course Priority:
Limited Enrollment - 3rd Year Priority
Graduation Requirements:
Experiential Learning
Full Year Course:

Course Description

Can legal advocacy impact public health?  Explore the possibilities in the Health Law Clinic, a medical-legal partnership with UPMC - Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Medical-Legal partnerships enable legal advocates to collaborate with a patient’s medical care team to address the social determinants of health that can affect patient outcomes.  Recognizing that acute, preventative, and rehabilitative care are only part of the whole health equation, the Health Law Clinic specifically addresses the role of income, education, caregiver stability, and self-determination on patient health.

The Clinic Seminar

Law students who have completed three semesters of law school may enroll in the Health Law Clinic. The seminar component of the Clinic provides students with the substantive content necessary to counsel clients in three subject matters: supplemental security income (SSI), special education, and substitute medical-decision making.  Additional coursework is organized with a systemic justice focus. Students will evaluate their advocacy experience in comparison to what they will learn about “upstream” problem solving, systems thinking, and interdisciplinary collaboration.  Students will explore policies that challenge, and structures that reinforce, health outcome disparity.  Students will identify the ways in which a lack of access to health care and lack of access to justice reinforce cycles of poverty, and explore the impact of social determinants of health on health outcomes.  Students from Pitt’s Schools of Medicine and Nursing may participate in some seminar sessions. All classes are participatory and interactive. 

Clinic Fieldwork

Once the substantive portion of the clinic is complete, students will staff various outpatient clinics at Children’s Hospital by providing legal service screenings and consults.

Additionally, each clinic student carries a caseload of 2-3 cases, in various stages of development. Students will have opportunities to represent parents of children with disabilities in court and in administrative hearings, as well as in negotiations with area school districts. Further activities include: conducting interviews; engaging in client counseling; gathering evidence; and drafting legal memoranda, complaints, and petitions. Clinic cases come directly from student consults or medical team referrals. Students must meet with the clinic director for weekly supervision meetings.

By increasing access to legal advocacy and positive health outcomes for children whose health needs put them at risk, the clinic provides an impactful experiential learning experience.

Students enrolled in the clinic must apply for and obtain a certified legal intern designation from the Pennsylvania Bar. Participants must be willing to comply with clearance requirements required of all UMPC volunteers.

The Health Law Clinic is completed over consecutive two semesters (6 cr. in fall; 2 cr. in spring). Students must register for the Clinic Extension in the spring session of the course. Students will receive a grade at the conclusion of each semester. However, in the event that the student does not complete the second semester, the student shall receive a W for the course, thus nullifying the grade for the prior semester.