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New Paths for Health Law Pro Bono

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City, County, and Bar Association-sponsored pro-bono service programs are structured to deliver their services in many ways, including scheduled clinics accepting walk-ins and intake/screening services that prescreen cases that can’t be handled with consumer information resources. These programs, in turn, are staffed in a variety of ways, from scheduled clinic staffing slots of volunteers or those required to provide pro bono services by their bar, to clinics with unscheduled walk-in lawyers as well, with a similar variety of options for populating referral panels.

Depending on the volume of the local pro-bono program, it may be worthwhile exploring more efficient ways for health care attorneys to contribute to the delivery of services than to simply fill slots at clinics or on referral panels and hope that they have the expertise from some past portion of their practice to assist the client, or keep passing on referrals until one arrives that can be handled responsibly by an attorney who has focused on health care issues for so long as to be of limited value to clients with all but the simplest of problems.

Especially where the program contains preliminary intake or screening functions, it may be productive for health care attorneys in a city, county, or state bar (who may already be organized as a health care section or committee) to approach the pro-bono sponsor and propose a targeted program matching health care attorneys with clients who have health care related problems. The program might create a separate panel of the volunteering health care bar to rotate assignment of clients identified as having health care related issues. Even in clinic based programs, rationing the health care attorneys to cover the schedule in a targeted fashion might be effective.

Medical-legal partnerships in many communities already pursue a form of this model, by linking pro bono attorneys on-site with patients at health clinics and hospitals, to achieve an integrated approach to patient/client service.

If you are aware of programs that have explored or implemented any of the above suggestions, we welcome your feedback, and, of course, any other suggestions.​

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