Children’s Law Center DC

I had the privilege of visiting two Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) sites of the Children’s Law Center in Washington DC – at the Children’s National Medical Center (Good Hope Road) and Mary’s Center (Northwest). Both of these MLPs have on-site attorneys (Renee Erline and Sandra Sandoval) embedded within the community health facilities.

“Founded in 1996, Children’s Law Center is now the largest legal services organization in the District of Columbia and the only one that provides comprehensive representation specifically on behalf of children.

Children’s Law Center’s 80 person staff, together with hundreds of pro bono partners, directly represent more than 1,200 children and caregivers every year.”1

So what are the unique or standout features of the Children’s Law Center MLPs? For both attorneys the answer was identical – broad and deep relationships between the partners, and, support from senior legal supervisors.

It seems trite to say but building good relationships between organisations at all levels (from the administrative staff to the Executive Director) is required because these relationships will support different activities at different stages of the MLPs initiation and operation. Once in place, good relationships will help to sustain the partnership, fair weather or foul. From referring clients to appreciating ethical obligations, applying for new funding or facilitating community legal education – good relationships optimise the partnership.

Similarly, good supervision of lawyers by mentors or superiors is critical to successfully inducting MLP lawyers, encouraging their retention and ensuring that quality assistance is provided. Both attorneys emphasized how much they valued regular casework supervision and support provided by the team at the Children’s Law Centre, which clearly prioritises this for staff.

These are seriously good MLP clinics delivered by strong partners and provide a great example to others.

Peter

1. http://www.childrenslawcenter.org accessed 29 March 2012

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