Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic

For students

The Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic is a medical-legal partnership between Wayne Law and Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center that offers students training in practical lawyering skills while providing an invaluable service to low-income cancer patients receiving treatment at the center.

Most Innovative Clinic logoThe areas of law in which the clinic provides assistance can be summarized by the acronym I-HELP:

  • I – Insurance (health insurance eligibility and coverage)
  • H – Housing (foreclosure, eviction, poor housing conditions, utility problems)
  • E – Employment (Americans with Disabilities Act issues/family and medical leave/other employee benefits)
  • L – Long-term planning (advance directives, wills, powers of attorney)
  • P – Public benefits (Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, State Disability Assistance)

Through this clinical experience, students will develop skills that can be used in a broad range of practice settings, including interviewing and counseling, case management, problem-solving, persuasive fact analysis, legal drafting, negotiation, effective oral communication and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Students in this clinic will work in pairs. However, each student will have his or her own docket of clients for which he or she will be primarily responsible.

Credit hours: Six credits

Time commitment: 15 to 20 hours per week (including class time, preparing for class, office hours and time at the Karmanos Cancer Center)

Pre- or co-requisite: Professional Responsibility and the Legal Profession (LEX 6800)

Important: Participation in this clinic may require a flu shot, tuberculosis testing and TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) testing. The cost will be covered by the clinic.

For more information, email or call (313) 577-4015.

For donors

The Legal Advocacy for People with Cancer Clinic is a medical-legal partnership between Wayne State University Law School and Karmanos Cancer Center. The clinic provides legal representation, information and education to low-income cancer patients directly onsite at the cancer center as part of the overall provision of cancer care. 


The medical-legal partnership was established in 2011 as a two-year fellowship funded by Equal Justice Works. The program was spearheaded by Kathryn M. Smolinski, an Equal Justice Works Fellow, who earned her law degree from Wayne State University Law School and master of social work degree from the University of Michigan. Smolinski has 20 years of experience in the field of oncology social work and a passion to serve the cancer community. In fall 2013, the program was selected to become a new clinic course offering at Wayne Law, staffed by Smolinski as clinic director and adjunct assistant professor.


In its initial two years of operation, the medical-legal partnership provided legal advice or representation to 172 individuals and conducted legal education workshops for more than 600 professionals and clients.

Words from past clients

"No words can ever express the appreciation for the speck of hope you started that grew into a miracle revealed when I had given up hope. Your words of encouragement, when I had no one else is cherished even more than the legal help of you and your staff – a team that helps people of no resource is a work showing God's compassion. Greatly needed. Greatly appreciated. This has given me a start of piecing my life back together again ..."

"Your advice was easy to understand, packed with information we needed and you made us comfortable, like our needs were coming from a friend! Thank you!! This has been a traumatic stage of our lives. We are so grateful for your involvement."

Words from other professionals

"This program provides a very valuable service to our patients. Patients deal with multiple changes in their lives resulting from their cancer diagnosis. Inability to continue working, loss of income, insurance and security as well as needing to get affairs in order are all overwhelming issues. Having someone to address legal issues and questions helps lift burdens in great measure."

Training the next generation of lawyers, advocates and leaders