The Opportunities and Challenges of an Interdisciplinary Clinic


  • Paula Galowitz New York University School of Law



Law school clinics in many countries increasingly provide the major opportunities that law students have to engage in interdisciplinary collaborations with other professionals. The collaboration may be with a wide range of professionals, such as: doctors and medical students; social workers and social work students; business school students; engineering faculty and students including biomedical engineering students; nursing students; and experts in public health, education, mental health or palliative care. It can occur in diverse contexts or targeted to specific populations, such as children, the elderly, victims of domestic violence or low-income business owners.

Some examples of these interdisciplinary clinics illustrate their variety. Clinical legal education initiatives in South Africa, Thailand and Ukraine promoted public health through programs that partnered with the Law and Health Initiative of the Open Society Institute’s Public Health Programs. In South Africa, palliative care was integrated with legal services; law students worked with staff at a hospice association to conduct workshops on wills, debts and family law for hospice caregivers. In Ukraine a Medical Law Clinic was started to advise and represent clients; in Thailand a law clinic wrote an HIV/AIDS Community Legal Education Manual, collaborated with organizations working on health and human rights issues to discuss harm reduction and incarceration, and implemented community education programs in prisons, detention centers and community centers. At Palacky University in the Czech Republic a new Patient’s Rights Legal Clinic, which prepares students to give legal advice, is taught by lecturers of the medical faculty and lawyers from a human rights non-profit. A clinic in the United States provides business planning and legal advice to small businesses; law and business students collaborate to assist with community economic development. Another United States clinic combines students in law, business, medicine, social work, biomedical engineering, and arts and sciences in a collaboration focused on intellectual property and business formation, with an emphasis on biodiversity and agricultural-biotechnology innovations.