The Albany Law Clinic and Justice Center's Health Law Clinic recently received a Statewide 2008 Innovative Project Award from the New York State Department of Health's Cancer Services Program in recognition of the clinic's collaborative advocacy initiatives.
The Health Law Clinic approaches cases through a model of collaboration between law students and medical professionals, which simultaneously helps resolve legal disputes and leads to improved health outcomes for clients. Since the inception of the clinic's Cancer Care initiative in 2004, 70 law students have represented 300 clients affected by cancer in 620 cases.
"The Cancer Care initiative at Albany Law is truly a commendable program that has helped hundreds of people access legal services that would have otherwise been unavailable," said Richard Daines, commissioner of the New York State Department of Health. "And by partnering with doctors on a case-by-case basis, the law students are truly able to act in the best interest of their clients."
"The clinic is designed to teach student how to identify and address the legal issues that affect individuals living with chronic health conditions," said Professor Joseph Connors, director of the Health Law Clinic. "The clinic's legal services alleviate a great deal of stress for our clients, allowing them to focus their limited energy on their underlying health problems."
Through faculty-supervised representation of clients living with or affected by cancer or HIV, participating students acquire a broad range of practical lawyering skills in the areas of client interviewing, factual investigation, case planning, client counseling and litigation advocacy. The student interns, who are admitted to practice under the Student Practice Rule, help clients access necessary health care, obtain public benefits, secure or maintain stable housing, establish court-approved emergency plans for the future care of children and develop proxies that authorize health care agents to make health decisions.
Two years ago, Sherry Gold contributed $1 million to the Albany Law Clinic and Justice Center in memory of her late husband to establish the Barry A. Gold '70 Health Law Clinical Program Endowment Fund, which allowed the clinic to expand its educational component and serve a greater number of low-income clients. The fund annually covers the cost associated with hiring a fellow to oversee participating law students and to help coordinate collaborations with medical professionals.