CELEBRATION OF PRO BONO

ABA president highlights medical-legal partnerships during Pro Bono Week

The last person that a parent expects to see at the pediatrician’s office is a lawyer. But medical-legal partnerships can help families who need legal services to improve the health of their children.

Left to right: Children’s Law Center attorney Kathy Zeisel, ABA President Bob Carlson and pro bono director Jen Masi.

Left to right: Children’s Law Center attorney Kathy Zeisel, ABA President Bob Carlson and pro bono director Jen Masi.

Last week, ABA President Bob Carlson visited one of the first pediatric medical-legal partnerships, which was formed in 2002 by the Children’s Law Center and Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. The Oct. 24 event was part of the National Celebration of Pro Bono.

Medical-legal partnerships start with a doctor who screens patients for medical issues but also looks for legal roadblocks that may affect patients’ health. In the D.C. program, doctors frequently find that children are living in substandard housing that exacerbates their asthma, or lack access to food, special education or health benefits – all problems lawyers can resolve.

The program partners with more than 500 area lawyers who donated over 40,000 pro bono hours last year.

“Pro bono lawyers from firms, corporations, government and solo practices are on-site at six health clinics across the city to ensure the health and well-being of Washington’s children,” Carlson said. “This successful program demonstrates that lawyers’ pro bono work can have a major impact on individuals and families.”

Kathy Zeisel, senior supervising attorney for “Healthy Together,” calls the effort “improving health through legal interventions.”

The National Celebration of Pro Bono began in 2009 to showcase the difference that pro bono lawyers can make. In the 10 years since, more than 7,000 events have taken place in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Canada.

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