Thursday, January 31, 2013
The practice of law is becoming more interdisciplinary, meaning that lawyers need knowledge of other professional areas, such as corporations, construction, and medicine. When I was in practice, we had a major case concerning a coal mine disaster in Western Kentucky. The lawyers on the case had to become knowledgeable about coal mine safety law, coal mines, and practice before a federal agency. We even visited the mine where the disaster had occurred to help us understand the case.
Professors JoNel Newman and Melissa Swain have developed a clinical course at the University of Miami, which integrates the students into the health care system. They have posted a portfolio on the Educating Tomorrow's Lawyers Website, which discusses the clinic.
They introduce their clinic:
"Law schools have traditionally failed to adequately prepare graduates to assume their professional role. Our innovative, interdisciplinary, medical-legal course rectifies this by fully immersing law students in their role as advocates for under-served individuals and populations. Our students develop core competencies through repetitive practice and experience. They also forge their professional identity and develop ethical judgment through these experiences and the contrasting professional identities they encounter and explore in the medical field."
They also describe the clinic in more detail:
"Since 2005, the Health and Elder Law Clinic has been an in-house live client clinical course at the University of Miami Law School, offered to second and third year law students. The clinic is a Medical Legal Partnership (MLP) with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, providing legal services to patients in the HIV and other Clinics, as well as the VA Hospital. The high volume 'teaching hospital' model integrates legal assistance as a vital component of solving the health problems of vulnerable populations. The law students become members of the healthcare team and assist patients with legal issues, such as disability, public benefits, advance directives, immigration relief, and unhealthy housing conditions. We provide hands-on, multidisciplinary experience designed to make law students practice-ready. Law student clinicians are paired with medical residents in an interdisciplinary enterprise that assesses and meets the medical and legal needs of patient-clients. The medical and legal clinicians are cross-trained in each others’ disciplines to the extent needed to engage in the joint clinical practice and conduct the client/patient intake/encounter together. Students participating in this experiential 'teaching hospital' will be prepared to begin their journey as lifetime legal learners. From the first day, they begin their practice with multiple real clients in real case situations, making strategic decisions under pressure."
There is much more information in the portfolio here.