FAQs

Below are answers to the most frequently asked questions (FAQ) about medical-legal partnership and the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership. If you have additional questions, please contact us.

About Medical-Legal Partnership

Q: What is medical-legal partnership? 

A: Medical-legal partnerships embed lawyers as specialists in health care settings. When some of the most complex and intractable problems—like an illegal eviction—are detected, clinical staff can refer patients directly for legal services. And like other members of the health care team, legal staff are available to consult with clinical and non-clinical staff about system and policy barriers to care. A number of these partnerships go further, leveraging their considerable knowledge and expertise to advance local and state policies that lead to safer and healthier environments.

Q: How can lawyers help health care meet its mission?

A: The health care system is increasingly working to combat the social factors that contribute to poor health. As a result patient navigators, social workers, and others have become fixtures on the health care team. However, many complex health-harming social problems are entrenched in federal, state, and local policies and laws that require expertise in poverty law and administrative law. Attorneys in general—and poverty lawyers in particular—have an in-depth understanding of relevant policies, laws, and systems. They seek out solutions at the individual and policy levels to a range of health-related social and legal needs, and are uniquely qualified to help the health care system disrupt the cycle of returning people to the unhealthy conditions that would otherwise bring them right back to the clinic or hospital.

Q: How is an MLP different than if a doctor, nurse, or social worker refers a patient to a civil legal aid agency for help with a legal problem?

A: At medical-legal partnerships (MLPs), a “lawyer in residence” works on-site in the health care setting, not only providing legal services to patients, but also participating in clinical meetings and providing trainings to health care clinicians and staff. MLPs establish formal processes to screen patients’ health-related social and legal needs, share data between health care and legal partners, communicate about patient-clients, and jointly set service and evaluation priorities that reflect their shared mission. There is also a formal agreement between the health and legal organizations. 

Q: What setting does a medical-legal partnership work best in?

A: The medical-legal partnership approach can be adapted in a variety of settings. Medical-legal partnerships currently operate in 333 health care organizations, including 98 HRSA-funded health centers, 33 children’s hospitals, 25 VA medical centers, and an increasing number of institutions that serve the elderly.

Q: How are medical-legal partnership programs funded?

A: Medical-legal partnerships receive funding from a variety of sources listed below. More than one-third of medical-legal partnership programs now receive some of their funding from their health care organization’s operations budget. And critically, HRSA now recognizes legal services as a health center enabling service.

Health 2

HEALTH COMMUNITY

Operational revenue, including community benefit strategies

Federal, state, and local health and public health funding and appropriations (e.g. Section 330 of Public Health Services Act, chronic disease management programs, innovation and prevention funds)

Academic research grants

Managed care demonstration projects and contracts

Legal

LEGAL COMMUNITY

Federal and state legal aid appropriations and contracts (e.g. Legal Services Corporation, Administration on Aging)

Public interest legal fellowships (e.g. Equal Justice Works, Skadden, AmeriCorps)

Philanthropy

PRIVATE & CORPORATE PHILANTHROPY

Health and health care foundations

Community and corporate foundations

Social impact bonds

About Starting / Sustaining a Medical-Legal Partnership

Q: Are there sample trainings, screening tools or Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) available that I can use at my medical-legal partnership?

A: Yes! Our resources page contains tools to help with screening, training, and program evaluation.

Q: Are there opportunities to learn more about medical-legal partnership and connect with other people and organizations practicing MLP?

A: Absolutely! The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership hosts monthly webinars and virtual office hours on a variety of topics. You can also connect with colleagues at MLP sessions at national meetings, and participate in learning networks. Find out more on our events / trainings page. We also host a bi-annual Medical-Legal Partnership Summit that brings together hundreds of health, legal, and public health leaders, and is the largest MLP training and gathering in the country.

About the National Center

Q: What does the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership do?

A: The National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership leads education, research, and technical assistance efforts to create conditions where all health organization in the United States can leverage legal services as a standard part of the way they respond to social needs. Read about some of our recent initiatives.

Q: Are there currently any jobs are available with the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership or medical-legal partnerships in my community?

A: Subscribe to our newsletter to learn about current job opportunities as they become available.