A new player enters the world of in-house pro bono with a bang. The Walmart* legal department will launch a medical-legal partnership (MLP) project with Arkansas Children’s Hospital and Legal Aid of Arkansas this spring. A relatively unchartered arena in in-house pro bono, Walmart’s MLP will be a signature project for its legal department, and will include both onsite and virtual pro bono opportunities for Walmart lawyers and legal staff. Onsite, legal professionals become a part of the healthcare team. Doctors will refer patients to lawyers for legal assistance when appropriate. Just as a pediatrician refers a patient to a radiologist for a broken bone, a healthcare provider may refer a patient to an onsite attorney when an underlying social circumstance impairing a patient’s health is detected.
Walmart lawyers and legal staff may also contribute their expertise and skills remotely from the corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark. In the beginning, Walmart will focus its legal efforts on helping children and families with Medicaid benefits and special education needs. Ultimately, Walmart hopes to use its size and scale to expand this program beyond Arkansas, with MLPs at children’s hospitals all across the country.
In recent years, the medical-legal partnership model has gained tremendous traction beyond the medical and legal communities. In July 2010, the U.S. Congress adopted the bi-partisan Medical-Legal Partnership for Health Act. The act designates $10 million in federal funding for MLP and authorizes the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to provide grants for MLPs across the country. Ultimately the act aims to help set the standard for MLP implementation.
In 2010 alone, MLPs served patients at more than 225 hospitals and health centers in 38 states. Through these programs, more than 13,000 individuals and families received legal assistance, and more than 10,000 medical professionals received training on the connections between poverty and health and how to identify unmet legal needs through a medical check-up.
Does your legal department have a signature project? Leave a comment and tell us about it.
*denotes Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM