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Medical Legal Partnership

Medical Legal Partnership

Welcome to Community Legal Aid's Medical-Legal Partnership:
Advocacy for a Healthy Community

According to the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership, there are currently 50,000,000 Americans who face health-harming legal needs which disproportionately affect low-income families, children, the elderly, and people of color. 

Through a Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Pro Bono Innovation Fund Grant, Community Legal Aid and UMass Memorial Health Care have joined to improve the health of low-income families in Central Massachusetts by tackling these unmet health-harming legal needs faced by the system’s most vulnerable patients.  Your pro bono assistance will enable these families to gain access to stable and affordable housing, education, public benefits, affordable health coverage, and guardianships. Thank you for joining us in our efforts to provide low-income individuals access to justice.  We are pleased to welcome you to this Medical-Legal Partnership project and look forward to working with you.

Yours in Service,
The Medical-Legal Partnership Team

About Medical-Legal Partnership

 A Community Legal Aid attorney is embedded at three UMass Memorial primary care partner clinics and accepts referrals directly from medical providers. Community Legal Aid then works with pro bono attorneys from the private bar to serve these families. 

Image of 4 pillars labeled "legal aid," "health care," "evaluation," and "pro bono"

Our Advocacy Model

Medical-Legal Partnership Four-Step Process

  • Train health care providers to identify health-harming social conditions
  • Add a lawyer to the treatment team for patients who face health-harming social conditions that have legal solutions
    • Legal ”treatment” ranges from screening and consultation to full representation.
    • Health-harming social conditions include:
      • Risk of homelessness and substandard housing conditions
      • Food and financial insecurity due to barriers accessing public benefits
      • Health coverage gaps that result from unlawful terminations or denials
      • Inability to obtain educational services required for a disabled child to thrive in school
  • Transform clinical practices so that the health care team better responds to social conditions and local population health priorities
  • Prevent health-harming social conditions by identifying trends early on and working collaboratively with health care and other community partners to address these social conditions


Our Partners

Our funders

  • Legal Services Corporation, Pro Bono Innovation Fund
  • UMass Memorial Health Care
  • Albert W. Rice Charitable Foundation

The Medical-Legal Partnership Steering Committee

  • Katherine Eshghi, Esq., Senior Vice President & General Counsel, UMass Memorial
  • Cheryl Lapriore, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer & Chief of Staff, UMass Memorial
  • Monica Lowell, Vice President of Community Relations, UMass Memorial
  • Beverly Nazarian, M.D., Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, UMass Memorial
  • Christine Cernak, RN, CDE, Senior Director, Population Health Care Delivery & Innovation
  • Francis Wanjau, Manager, Practice Improvement Facilitation, Office of Clinical Integration
  • Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Aid
  • Kate Gannon, Staff Attorney, Community Legal Aid

Volunteer Attorneys

  • Local volunteer attorneys take cases referred by the Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Formal partnership with the law firms of Mirick O’Connell, LLP and Bowditch & Dewey, LLP

Healthcare Partners

  • Hahnemann Family Health Center, UMass Memorial Satellite Clinic on Lincoln Street
  • Benedict Pediatrics, UMass Memorial at University Campus
  • Benedict Family Medicine, UMass Memorial at University Campus
  • Department of Quantitative Human Sciences, UMass Medical School

Community Legal Aid Team

  • Weayonnoh Nelson-Davies, Managing Attorney, Community Legal Aid
  • Kate Gannon, Staff Attorney, Medical-Legal Partnership
  • Anita Conte, Pro Bono Coordinator, Volunteer Lawyers Service
  • Michael Dyer, Pro Bono Coordinator, Volunteer Lawyers Service
  • Jacob Hevenor, AmeriCorps Advocate

We are proud to partner with the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

In the News

Massachusetts AG Maura Healey gives $3 million to address social factors that affect health

UMass, CLA land $195K for medical-legal partnership

Read more CLA news here.

Medical-Legal Partnership Impact: Client & Partner Stories

MLP helps family obtain safe, stable housing: The mother of a newborn child was referred to the MLP after the ceiling in their rental unit caved in.  The baby was hospitalized due to inhalation of the hazardous debris. The pro bono attorney assisted the family in obtaining maintenance to the apartment, an abatement of the rent owed since the incident, and additional time to find alternative housing.  As a result, the new family was able to move to save housing and eliminate the child’s exposure to the debris.

MLP helps elderly, disabled patient maintain her social security benefits: A patient with multiple medical diagnosis including emphysema, degenerative disc disease, and fibromyalgia, received a notice from the Social Security Administration indicating that her benefits were terminated and that she had been overpaid by $5,000.  The attorney, along with the client, negotiated for the full benefits to be reinstated and for the overpayment to be eliminated.

MLP provides advice about legal rights to family after toddler is exposed to lead in rental unit:  Pediatric provider referred a family who had moved out of their apartment after their toddler tested positive for elevated lead levels.  The family experienced housing instability until they were finally able to relocate to another apartment.  As a result of the Medical-Legal Partnership, Community Legal Aid connected the family with a pro bono attorney who provided detailed advice regarding potential legal remedies and tenants’ rights under the Massachusetts Lead Law.  The child is doing well and is no longer at risk of lead poisoning.

Medical providers, in consultation with the MLP attorney, submitted a utility shut off protection letter to the utility company and restored electricity for asthmatic patient.  The patient was then referred to a pro bono attorney who represented the patient against her landlord to address violation of the state sanitary code, negotiated with the utility company to reduce outstanding utility bills and secured safe and more affordable housing.


How to Get Involved

Pro Bono Opportunities

Community Legal Aid welcomes pro bono volunteers into our Medical-Legal Partnership. If you are interested in making an impact, we are here to support you.  We carefully screen cases and strive to offer manageable pro bono opportunities because we know your time as an attorney is valuable.  Pro bono attorneys have the following supports available as needed throughout their volunteer experiences:  

  • Ongoing mentorship
  • Access to Medical-Legal Partnership trainings and pro bono manuals
  • Discount MCLE vouchers (limited number)
  • Conference space at CLA
  • Access to a phone interpreter service
  • Email groups exclusively for CLA MLP attorneys
  • Professional liability insurance

If you are interested in volunteering with the Medical-Legal Partnership, complete a brief registration form and a pro bono coordinator will contact you to get started!

Complete a brief registration form and a pro bono coordinator will contact you to get started!

Click Here to Register

Health Care Partnership

CLA is always open to exploring new Health Care Partners who are innovative and collaborative. Please contact CLA Attorney Kate Gannon ( if you are interested in learning more about our work and how we might respond to the social conditions your patients face.

Help Sustain the Work

The work CLA does with our medical partners is possible because of our generous funders and individual donors. If you or your organization are interested in funding our work please reach out out to Development Director, Tom Navin (  or donate online.

Pro Bono Attorney Resource Library

If you are a current volunteer attorney with one of our medical-legal partnerships - thank you! Click here and login to access MLP pro bono resources.

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