ATLANTA—Entering its thirteenth year, the health of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP) Legal Services Clinic is as strong as ever. Founded in 2007 as part of HeLP, a medical-legal partnership among Georgia State Law, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, the HeLP Clinic offers GSU Law students the rare opportunity to advocate on behalf of clients experiencing problems at the intersection of law and health.
In order to give law students the tools to address their clients’ multi-faceted problems, the HeLP Clinic is at the forefront of experiential and interdisciplinary education. Law students in the clinic engage in a multi-dimensional field of study that combines engaging with substantive areas of law, client simulations and role plays, and exercises and discussions on topics ranging from ethics and professionalism to cultural competency and social justice. While building their skills and knowledge base, HeLP clinic students simultaneously have the opportunity to apply directly what they learn as, under the supervision of an attorney and clinical faculty member, they work on real cases with real clients, just like lawyers do. “My time in the HeLP Clinic has allowed me to gain unparalleled practical experience doing fulfilling work serving the legal needs of families and children in the greater Atlanta community,” said Laura Trejo, GSU Law Class of 2019. “I know that the knowledge and experience I have gained while working in the clinic will serve me well in my future legal practice.”
While full-time GSU Law students have a large number of clinics, internships, and externships to choose from, their part-time counterparts often have less time and flexibility to devote to such opportunities. The HeLP Clinic, however, is open to both full- and part-time students. “Instead of landing summer internships, part-time students are taking a heavy load, even throughout the summers, to finish the required law school curriculum,” said Whitney Woodward, GSU Law Class of 2020. “As a part-time law student working full-time, the Clinic has provided me real-world law experience that I would not have gotten otherwise.”
While HeLP Clinic students often represent clients with complex medical histories and diseases, they do not have to do so alone, as the clinic regularly hosts fourth-year medical students from Morehouse School of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and other medical schools across the country. These medical students, who are completing month-long elective rotations on the topic of Law and Medicine, not only serve as in-house medical advisors for the law students, but also become key members fully integrated within the legal team. For the current 2018-19 academic year, 23 medical students and 1 medical resident have completed or are scheduled to complete a rotation in the HeLP Clinic. “The interdisciplinary aspect of the clinic is vital,” said Logan Stone, GSU Law Class of 2019. “On our first case, we had about a thousand medical documents. I had no idea where to begin, but luckily we had three medical students here in house with us, and they had those documents summarized and indexed and triaged by the next day. The ability for the legal field and the medical field to integrate our practices is vital to our clients because we offer two different sets of skills, and it’s incredibly important to the future of medicine that we work together.”
The HeLP Clinic’s interdisciplinary offerings are not limited to the four walls of GSU Law. Clinic students are further immersed in the medical and health sectors through a number of inter-professional activities and opportunities, including attending patient rounds at Hughes Spalding hospital, conducting client screening interviews at the hospital, and attending interdisciplinary class sessions on the Morehouse School of Medicine campus. “Going to Morehouse and attending classes with the medical students was a very eye-opening experience, and something very different than any of us had ever done,” said Chelsea Mitchell, GSU Law Class of 2018.
Located at the intersection of law and medicine, the HeLP Clinic is well positioned to train the next generation of lawyers and physicians to address the complicated, multi-faceted problems of today in a collaborative, dynamic way. “The HeLP Clinic is one of the most valuable experiences I had in law school,” said Michelle Wilco, GSU Law Class of 2018. “No other class offers hands-on learning and real client interaction at this level. I can’t recommend the HeLP Clinic enough.”