University of Kansas law students have an opportunity to practice their craft by assisting with the KU Law Medical-Legal Partnership.

“Oftentimes, a medical problem is really a legal problem,” said Lou Mulligan, Earl B. Shurtz Research Professor and director of the MLP program. “I could be healthy if I had my Family Medical Leave rights. I could be healthy if I had a protection from abuse order. I could be healthy if my apartment was free from mold.”

The MLP assists with dozens of different case types.

“We run legal clinics, staffed by lawyers and then law students in the hospitals themselves and have trained the doctors, nurses and social workers to help us diagnose, if you will, a legal problem and then serve those needs,” said Mulligan. “Everything from someone needs a will today, because maybe there’s a high likelihood of that person’s going to pass today, to some of these other issues.”

The program has seen rapid growth in patient referrals since it started in January 2008 as the first MLP in Kansas.

“Legal questions around health are huge,” said Mulligan. “Indeed, in the last 20 years or so, the idea of health law has grown into a huge field. Every large law firm has a division working on health law. Everything from insurance to regulation to hiring and retaining medical professionals, to how do we deal with people who lack, clients and patients who lack resources. It’s a very big topic.”

Each KU Law intern commits upward of 200 hours for each semester they’re enrolled in the MLP field placement. They generally work under staff attorneys. The MLP is supported with funds from private donors, as well as gifts from LMH Health and the University of Kansas Health System.

Photo courtesy: University of Kansas