Academics: Professional Training

Health Law Clinic

Adjunct Professors Nathan Veldhuis and Amy Walters; 8 credits

Students in this yearlong clinic help represent mentally ill and elderly clients in negotiations, administrative hearings and court proceedings. The legal matters may involve civil rights, mental health care in jails and prisons, disability benefits claims, access to health or rehabilitative services, creating wills and other testamentary documents, and advanced directives.

Students also address systemic issues related to the provision of community-based services, the rights of the institutionalized, and the interface between the civil and criminal justice systems.

Instruction in the substantive law of these areas will be provided in a classroom component throughout the clinic as dictated by the needs of the clients. The classroom component provides a forum for students to learn mental health, disability law, and elder law pertinent to the cases they are handling, as well as for the discussion of practice and ethical issues arising in those cases. Topics relating to the nature of psychiatric diagnosis and mental disorders, client competence and surrogate decision-making for incompetent clients and competence and autonomy issues involving mentally ill and elderly clients also are addressed.

Under the supervision of an attorney, students directly perform all the lawyerly functions associated with their cases, including client and witness interviews, factual development, legal research, preparation of documents and pleadings, and negotiation and advocacy in administrative forums and courts (to the extent permitted by law). Students meet weekly with the supervising attorney to discuss the readings, if any, assigned for that particular week and to receive case supervision, along with instruction concerning client interviewing and counseling, negotiation and case preparation. The supervising attorney accompanies each student to all administrative proceedings and court appearances. In addition to representing individual clients, students have the opportunity to engage in mental health advocacy at a systemic level, which may involve policy analysis and the development of policy proposals or proposed legislation, class-action litigation or advocacy work with community agencies. Students enrolled in the clinic are encouraged, but not required, to enroll in the Mental Health Law course.

This clinic is offered in conjunction with the Legal Aid Justice Center.

Students earn 8 credits 3 in the fall and 5 in the spring.