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Interplay Across Poverty, Health, & Law

(1k+ reviews)

Produced on May 17, 2016

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Course Information

Course Description

The United States has an extensive health care industry and infrastructure, yet people living in poverty tend to be sicker and have more disabilities than their wealthier counterparts. The poor have less access to health care. Fewer health care providers are willing to provide low-cost care.

A growing contingent of health care and legal professionals – bolstered by the Affordable Care Act’s attention to patient-centered care – are committed to remedying these health disparities through a unique approach to health care: the medical-legal partnership. Using the MLP approach, hospitals and health centers embed public interest attorneys into their healthcare teams to tackle the range of health issues for vulnerable people and communities that have a legal problem at their core, whether it is unsafe housing, food insecurity, or a lack of access to public benefits.

Led by national pioneers in the medical-legal partnership field, this course will introduce attorneys to the concept of social determinants of health, linking them to prevalent health challenges, and describing legal interventions that can improve individual and population health. The course outlines fundamentals of medical-legal partnership practice, essential strategies to bridge between health and legal settings, common barriers to care for low-income individuals, and advocacy strategies used by MLPs to improve access to health-promoting public programs and services. 

Learning Objectives:

I.     Learn about health disparities and their origins in poverty and social determinants

II.    Understand how to work collaboratively with healthcare partners to address social determinants jointly

III.   Recognize the legal barriers to health and well-being for low-income individuals and the legal solutions

IV.   Gain a basic understanding of three domains where law and health intersect for vulnerable patient-clients, including 1. Accessing behavioral health services; 2. Accessing housing and shelter; and 3. Accessing basic public benefits

Credit Information

After completing this course, Lawline will report your attendance information to {{ accredMasterState.state.name }}. Please ensure your license number is filled out in your profile to ensure timely reporting. For more information, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements page . After completing this course, {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} attorneys self-report their attendance and CLE compliance. For more information on how to report your CLE courses, see our {{ accredMasterState.state.name }} CLE Requirements FAQ .


Ellen Lawton

National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership

Ellen Lawton, JD is a Lead Research Scientist at the George Washington University and leads the University’s National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership in the Department of Health Policy and Management. She is also the lead advisor for Walmart’s signature pro bono medical-legal partnership initiative.


An expert in poverty law generally, Ms. Lawton is a lead editor of the 2011 textbook, Poverty, Health & Law: Readings from Medical-Legal Partnership. Ms. Lawton is internationally recognized for her leadership in developing the medical-legal partnership approach, and has published an array of articles describing this work in both clinical and legal journals.


Ms. Lawton received the 2011 Innovations in Legal Services Award from the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, is chair of the board of directors at Health Imperatives and is a member of the board of directors of Community Resources for Justice. She also serves on the national advisory committee for the Primary Care Leadership Program. Ms. Lawton was a 2004 Harvard Law School Wasserstein Fellow.

Randye Retkin

New York Legal Assistance Group

Randye Retkin, Esq., is the Director and Founder of LegalHealth, a division of the New York Legal Assistance Group. She has been developing and running legal programs that serve low-income individuals for over 25 years. LegalHealth provides free legal services to individuals with chronic and serious illnesses through partnerships with hospitals and community groups. In addition to providing free legal services, LegalHealth offers an innovative legal education curriculum to doctors, social workers, and other health care professionals. LegalHealth provides legal services at 25 hospital sites across New York City and Long Island, and is the largest Medical-Legal Partnership in the country. 

Prior to joining NYLAG, Randye served as Director of Legal Services for the Gay Men’s Health Crisis. She has provided consulting on projects addressing the needs of people with breast cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma, and other chronic illnesses. Randye served as a staff attorney with New York Lawyers for the Public Interest and Volunteers of Legal Service (VOLS) where she established the VOLS Immigrants’ Rights Project. She is a founder of the New York Immigration Coalition, the National Network of Cancer Legal Services Providers and a co-founder of the New York State Coalition of Medical-Legal Partnerships. She is a co-author of New York’s Standby Guardianship law and New York’s Health-Related Legal Services Program Law.

Randye is nationally recognized for building collaborations between professionals working with the chronically ill and for ensuring the well-being of this population by helping them access medical and legal systems. She is a co-author of one of the first significant articles on collaborative care for the chronically ill: “Attorneys and Social Workers Collaborating in HIV Care: Breaking New Ground,” Fordham Urban Law Journal (1997). She also co-authored “Complexities in HIV Consent in Adolescents,” Clinical Pediatrics (2005), “The Attorney As the Newest Member of the Cancer Treatment Team,” Journal of Clinical Oncology (May 2006), “Lawyers and Doctors Working Together-A Formidable team,” ABA Health Lawyer (2007), “Public Health Legal Services: A New and Powerful Vision,” Georgetown Journal of Poverty Law and Policy (2008), “How Bioethics Can Enrich Medical-Legal Partnerships,” The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics (2010), “Legal Services: A Necessary Component of Patient Navigation”, Seminars in Oncology Nursing (2013), and most recently “The Long Road to State Endorsement of Medical-Legal Partnerships in New York” Clearinghouse Review, (2014).

In 2008, Randye and LegalHealth were awarded the prestigious E. Lee Walker award from the Live Strong Foundation for work on behalf of people with cancer. In 2010, Randye was the recipient of the New York City Bar’s Twenty-first Annual Legal Services Honorees Award. This award recognizes attorneys who have, for an extended period, devoted themselves full time to the direct provision of free civil legal services to indigent persons. LegalHealth was the recipient of the 2010 Denison Ray award from the New York State Bar Association, the 2011 “Outstanding MLP Award” from the National Center on Medical Legal Partnerships and most recently the 2012 Joan Tisch Community Health Prize. Randye is a frequent speaker at national legal and medical conferences. She is currently an adjunct professor at Fordham Law School teaching “Advances in Healthcare Law”, is serving on the Executive Committee of HHC’s DSRIP Network, OneCity Health and was recently given an award by the Mount Sinai Health System to honor her community service work.   


Sharon M.

Excellent- would love to see more options in health/poverty law and rights/system obligations.

Richard C.

Wonderful presentation. I hope that these two presenters ... Ellen Lawton and Randye Retkin .... will be invited to do more programs concerning the Social Determinants of Health. There is obviously a great need for a legal-medical partnership in addressing our national health issues, and both of these presenters are "experts" in the field. Again, very well done.

Anelga D.

Very impressive speakers and fantastic presenters.

Gwenn L.


John Y.

Impressive understanding of health care operational and policy environment and social determinants of health, into which the role of legal assistance was well-described.

Winifred C.

Think this was an excellent course. I work in this space as a consultant and enjoyed hearing the public health approach to health disparities!!

Saundra Y.

Good discussion of the issues with resources given.

Abby N.

Would definitely listen to follow up programs from these speakers!

Robin H.

Great course. Randye was especially effective

Jean P.

Incredible program. I selected this primarily because I needed to satisfy my Diversity & Inclusion credit requirement and the subject matter seemed interesting. What I ended up wanting to do after this program is look into whether there are any MLPs in Western Michigan and what I could do, as an attorney, to be of service in this sector. The presenters were incredibly learned, practical and insightful and have made me think about the deleterious effects of social determinants (elderly, veteran status, racial minority status, environmental racism) on wellness. Wow!

Neelam N.

Really interesting, cutting edge course!

Dean K.

Enthusiastic speakers who care about their work.

Sharon A.

Helpful information

Robert P.

Excellent introduction to this area of law and policy.

Arthur S.

A link to the website for tool kits on information sharing would be helpful, well paced presentation, thoughtful and engaging, thank you.

Tracy L.

The course started with a lot of theory (not my forte in practice). But, I did find impactful the case studies and application of the asthma, cancer ,veterans and elderly issues.

Kichul K.


Laura V.

Excellent introductory information on Medical Legal Partnerships

Adam L.

very good

Karen H.


Stuart I. J.

Like this one.

Stephanie C.

Excellent presentation!

Jean B.

Outstanding introduction to MLPs.

Roman W.

Very knowledgeable presenters. Good "high level" overview of the medical-legal partnership concept -- a very good introduction to this subject.

Pamela W.

Interesting presentation covering many important issues in this field.

Phillip P.

great presentation.

Richard R.

Thank you

Stacy A.

Excellent, thank you.

Patricia F.

one of the best presentations i have seen on a topic i knew nothing about despite beig a retired health care lawyer

Karl O.

This class might be of interest to a legal aid attorney, health care law attorney or anyone interested in medical/legal issues.

Linus W.

knowledgeable presenters who obviously are enthused with what they do

Maria D.


Linda L.

Would have been interested in knowing about specific legal issues concerning a population with case stories, examples.

Nancy C.


Joanna S.

Good points throughout. We need to understand legal- health connections better.

Samantha T.

This was really good info.

Scott D.

really well presented - great subject matter experts on the presentation

Jeanne Anne N.

Outstanding course. Kept my attention. I could listen to these two attorneys again.

Danielle G.

I would like to thank LawLine for including programs such as this which involve matters of social justice. It speaks well to your orgainization's values. This program, in addition to Women's Health and Reproductive Rights and Women's Health Justice in Prison that I completed were very inspiring. Again, Thank You! I will spread the word.

Michael C.

Good discussion

Elaine S.

Excellent program in that it addressed changing ways lawyers can serve, and complete in terms of providing resources.

James W.

Thank you

Stephan S.

really quite well done!

Carol A S.


Steven R.

An excellent program. I did not know there was such a field in the law. I thought the speakers did a very good job of articulating what the field is about. I feel I received a lot of valuable information.

Amy T.

One of the best and most critical programs I've seen on Lawline. Excellent presenters, very important and timely topic.

Amber T.

This was the best course I've seen on Lawline.

Francis B.

Great CLE. Probably the best I've seen (in my limited experience). I'm a clinical ethics fellow at one of the leading cancer hospitals in the US, but I'm a lawyer by training, so this was very pertinent to my practice. I will definitely look into opportunities to become involved with Medical-Legal Partnerships in my community.

Rico R.

Great course on an important topic. Please provide more like this.

Julie A. B.


Gwen I.


Christopher S.

Very informative--eye-opening if you will--and helpful. Provided good resources.

Barbara S.

Very interesting discussions of how legal services can be critical to helping ease difficulties for vulnerable people. The stories about cancer patients who couldn't get surgery because they were soon to be homeless and how a lawyer could help were heartbreaking and inspiring that these lawyers devote time to assisting in these and other similar situations they described.

Laura V.

Excellent speakers; highly informative program

Nytasha T.

i really enjoyed this Webcast topic and the speakers. Very well done!

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