© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

KU And Washburn Law Schools Are Providing Free Legal Services To Health Care Workers

042920_ku law students_steve puppe_ku law school
Steve Puppe
University of Kansas
Students at the University of Kansas School of Law provide pro bono services to eligible patients and their families.

The pop-up services will be made available to health care workers earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level.

Recognizing that medical problems are often intertwined with legal ones, Kansas' two law schools are providing health care workers with free legal services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

University of Kansas law students are working with licensed attorneys to help the workers draft wills, living wills, health care directives and powers of attorney. The services will be provided remotely. The Washburn Law Clinic at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka is providing similar services for Topeka hospital employees who can't afford legal help.

“The basic idea is that often a medical problem actually has a legal cause,” said Lumen Mulligan, a professor at KU School of Law and director of its Medical-Legal Partnership. “I could be healthy if I lived in an apartment free from mold. I could be healthy if I had my family leave medical benefits. I could be healthy if I had a protection-from-abuse order.”

The KU "pop-up" clinic is the outgrowth of a years-long partnership between the law school and the University of Kansas Hospital and LHM Health (formerly known as Lawrence Memorial Hospital) in Lawrence that has offered free legal services to low-income patients and their families.

The services will be made available to health care workers earning up to 400% of the federal poverty level, with priority given to workers at KU Health System and LMH Health.

The program is limited to 10 law students so that they can be effectively trained in short order.

“Our interest really is looking at the essential health care workers who are on the front lines — not just providers but also people in facilities management, dining, administration,” said Juliann Morland DaVee, who runs the partnership at LMH Health. “They’re taking care of our communities and protecting our communities.

Lindsey Collins, who oversees the program at KU Hospital, said the partnership has provided a host of legal services to low-income patients and their families over the years and the pop-up clinic is a logical extension of that.

The idea of the partnership is “to improve social determinants of health and health outcomes,” she said. “We believe that legal care is in fact health care.”

The students, who work with DaVee, Collins and volunteer attorneys, do client interviews, client counseling, document drafting and even take part in court hearings.

KU law school began recruiting students for the pop-up clinic just over two weeks ago and began training them last week. The clinic began taking applications on April 23, with more information available on its website on its website.

The Washburn program began last week and will offer help with powers of attorney, wills and living wills.

"The Washburn Law Clinic is launching our HELP Project to assist in providing peace of mind to hospital workers who are bravely facing the pandemic each day," Gillian Chadwick, director of the clinic, said in a statement.

Like the KU program, the Washburn clinic will work remotely and provide its services free of charge. Documents can also be executed remotely now that Gov. Laura Kelly, via executive order, has authorized notarization through audio-video conferencing.

Hospital employees interested in obtaining these service can contact the Washburn Law Clinic at help@washburnlaw.edu or call 785-670-1191.

Dan Margolies has been a reporter for the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, and KCUR Public Radio. He retired as a reporter in December 2022 after a 37-year journalism career.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.