Kile-Maxwell and Phillips: Eskenazi Health medical-legal partnership hosts wills clinic

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The Medical-Legal Partnership at Eskenazi Health has been bringing health care professionals and legal professionals together since 2008 to help solve legal problems that affect the health outcomes of Eskenazi Health patients. One example of the partnership is an annual Wills and Advanced Care Planning Clinic, through which volunteer attorneys and paraprofessionals provide pro bono will drafting and other end-of-life planning services to Eskenazi Health patients.

Overall, the Medical-Legal Partnership seeks to address “social determinants of health,” meaning conditions in the environments in which people live, learn, work and otherwise go about their daily lives that affect their health status — for example, unsafe housing, neighborhoods that lack safe play spaces for children, difficulties accessing transportation or limited access to healthy food. Eskenazi Health has noted that these social determinants of health can shape as much as 80% of health outcomes.

“The Medical-Legal Partnership looks at root cause issues,” Anna Kirkman, associate chief counsel at Eskenazi Health, said. “If your landlord maintains your rental unit in a way that’s not habitable, we need to address that so you have a safe place to live where you’re not getting sick.”

The wills clinic seeks to address social determinants of health by providing much-needed end-of-life planning services to vulnerable populations of Eskenazi Health patients. Health care professionals at Eskenazi Health can refer patients to the wills clinic for assistance drafting wills, advanced care directives and other end-of-life planning documents.

Eskenazi Health partners with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP to host the wills clinic each summer. Kirkman explained that the partnership began with the Medical-Legal Partnership making individual end-of-life care planning referrals to Faegre Drinker and eventually developed into the wills clinic model, which she described as “a high-impact clinic model.” This year’s clinic was held June 27 at the Sandra Eskenazi Outpatient Care Center and resulted in approximately 58 unique legal documents being drafted and executed for patients in a span of four hours.

Attorneys, paraprofessionals and summer associates from a variety of practice areas participate in the clinic. Faegre Drinker provides all volunteers with training prior to the wills clinic. As Bailey Bloss, pro bono and community service coordinator at Faegre Drinker, explained, “Several days before the clinic, volunteer attorneys attended a one-and-a-half-hour training session led by an attorney at Faegre Drinker with expertise in the areas of estate planning and estate and trust administration.”

On the day of the clinic, attorneys experienced in estate and incapacity planning were there to supervise and assist the process.

Aaron Shi is a 2023 Faegre Drinker summer associate entering his third and final year of law school at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. He first learned about the wills clinic from a firmwide email. Shi conducted intake at the wills clinic and explained that what stood out to him the most about the intake process was “watching clients share their stories with the attorneys helping them.” Shi explained that in order for the volunteers to fully assist them, the clients needed to explain who they were, “who their families are and what their desires are with respect to what should happen when they are gone.”

The wills clinic is just one program within the Medical-Legal Partnership, which is the longest-standing medical-legal partnership in the state, and just one partnership that Eskenazi Health has with outside volunteers. Other law firms (Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP), legal aid partners (Indiana Legal Services Inc.) and community partners (the Joseph Maley Foundation) also partner with the Medical-Legal Partnership to provide legal services related to education-related support and advocacy, guardianship petitions and housing issues.

Kirkman said that what the Medical-Legal Partnership’s key law firm partners have in common is well-established pro bono programs; adequate resources to recruit, train and support a deep bench of volunteers; and an initiative in mind that they want to support. With more law firm partners, the Medical-Legal Partnership could expand to provide additional pro bono services to patients in need.

The Eskenazi Health Foundation also recently announced its Beyond Barriers campaign, a $60 million campaign to address social determinants of health in central Indiana.•


Emily Kile-Maxwell and Rachel Phillips are associates in Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP’s Indianapolis office. Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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