A newly-formed partnership between the University of Kansas School of Law and Lawrence Memorial Hospital will help bring free legal assistance to patients that are unable to obtain it on their own. At the same time, the program will give law students an opportunity to help with cases and gain valuable real world experience.
The partnership is part of a national movement of hospitals that will bring free legal assistance to low-income patients and other patients that are unable to obtain legal counsel, Associate Dean of Law Lumen Mulligan said.
“What we have here is a triple win,” Mulligan said. “We have an opportunity to provide a better healthcare experience for low-income individuals served by Lawrence Memorial, an opportunity for the hospital to do well and an opportunity for KU law students to experience a legal-medical environment.”
Mulligan, who serves as the programs supervisor, said many hospitals are realizing that medical issues are often legal issues as well.
“You might have someone who continually re-admits in the emergency room due to abuse. So what they need is a protection from abuse order,” Mulligan said. “Another situation would be if a person needs legal guardianship because they’re not entirely able to take care of themselves.”
Director and Head Attorney of the program Juliann Morland DaVee said the program is different from others in the state because it will be based out of the hospital itself.
“I would often have to move around between several locations, which made it hard for some of the patients,” Morland DaVee said. “The hope is that with the in-house model I will be able to meet with patients on the same day we are notified about them.”
Morland DaVee said between four and eight law students will work under her on cases, beginning in the spring.
“The students will work on all the types of case work that I do, and it will be a really good chance for them to gain experience,” Morland DaVee said.
Mulligan said the partnership will be a great opportunity for law students to learn and actually work on cases, even if they have interests outside of the medical-legal field.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn and develop client interviewing skills, to work on problem solving or to work on legal document creation,” Mulligan said.
The new partnership, which takes cases based on referrals from LMH staff, has already began working with patients, Morland DaVee said.