400.02 Health Justice Clinic

This clinical course focuses on people living with serious illness. Student attorneys are the primary legal representatives for clients living with HIV, cancer, and other serious health conditions. Students may also work on policy or community education projects related to health and the law. Faculty supervisors provide back-up, training, coaching, and regular feedback as students handle cases involving access to health coverage (Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance), income (disability benefits and employment), job accommodations, and discrimination. Students also work on cases involving health information privacy, end-of-life planning (wills, advance directives), planning for the future care of children (guardianship), and name changes for transgender clients. In assigning cases, faculty strive to honor students’ interests.

Students engage with clients from diverse backgrounds whose lives have been disrupted by serious illness, including people living in poverty, those who have experienced the financial toxicity of illness, members of the LGBTQ community, and people struggling with addiction or mental illness. Although many of our clients are facing serious health and/or life challenges, students consistently remark on their clients’ resilience and gratitude, and value the experience of having a tangible impact on clients’ lives.

In addition to extensive client interactions, students will engage with health care providers, social workers, government officials, and other professionals. Students interview and counsel clients and witnesses, draft estate planning documents, analyze medical records, collaborate with other professionals, including medical providers and social workers, interview and prepare affidavits for medical providers and other witnesses, conduct fact investigations and legal research, draft legal memoranda, and as needed, represent clients in administrative and other hearings. Interested students may have the opportunity to engage in public speaking through presentations to medical providers, social workers, or client/community groups.

The Health Justice Clinic is appropriate for students interested in any practice area, as the skills employed are applicable to all areas of law. The Clinic may be particularly relevant for students who will work in health law, disability law, poverty law, or any administrative law field. Graduates of the clinic also report that it was especially helpful in their careers in public policy, government, and for developing a focus for their pro bono work in large firms.

Classroom work consists of a day-long intensive training at the beginning of the semester as well as a weekly, two-hour seminar focusing on substantive law, lawyering skills, professionalism, the health care system, social safety net, social determinants of health, and health disparities. Students work closely with clinic instructors, and enjoy a uniquely supportive mentoring and coaching experience. Faculty prioritize each student’s professional development and encourage the development of a work-life balance that will be essential in law practice.

The course is offered for 4, 5, or 6 credits,

Clinics Enrollment Policy


  • Students are required to attend the day-long clinic intensive training session.  Students who have previously completed a clinic may skip the morning portion of the intensive.
  • International LLM students who wish to enroll in a clinic must seek the permission of the clinic's faculty director prior to the enrollment period. Permission is required to enroll but permission does not constitute entry into the clinic.
  • Course website
  • ** Variable Credits 4-6 **

Ethics Requirement

Students are required to have instruction in the Model Rules of Professional Conduct prior to, or during, enrollment in the Health Justice Clinic. The following ethics classes meet the requirement: Ethics of Social Justice Lawyering (LAW 237), Ethics and the Law of Lawyering (LAW 238), Ethics and the Law of Lawyering in Civil Litigation (LAW 239), Criminal Justice Ethics (LAW 317) and Ethics in Action (LAW 539).

Enrollment Pre/co-requisite

Any ethics course (Law 237, Law 238, Law 239, Law 317, or Law 539)

Spring 2020

Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor
Course Credits
Reflective Writing
Practical exercises
Live-client representation and case management
Class participation
S. Hannah Demeritt, Allison Rice
Sakai site: https://sakai.duke.edu/portal/site/LAW.400.02.Sp20
Email list: LAW.400.02.Sp20@sakai.duke.edu
Degree Requirements
Course Requirements - JD
Course Requirements - LLM
Course Requirements - Public Interest
Course Areas of Practice