Pro bono services in a medical-legal partnership and a diversity education project have earned Baker & Daniels LLP two awards from the Indiana Bar Foundation.
Baker & Daniels received a Pro Bono Publico Award for its role in serving the Medical-Legal Partnership with Wishard Health Services EMBRACE Clinic for women cancer patients. The award recognizes extraordinary contributions toward ensuring legal services are available to persons who otherwise could not afford them.
Baker & Daniels, along with Eli Lilly and Company, were recognized with a Law-Related Education Award for their delivery of the Street Law Corporate Diversity Pipeline Program to Shortridge Magnet High School for Law & Public Policy. The award is given for excellence in providing information that enhances the public's understanding of the law and legal system.
Recipients of those awards and others were honored during the annual Shepard Award Dinner, sponsored by the Indiana Pro Bono Commission and Indiana Bar Foundation, in downtown Indianapolis recently.
In 2008, Indiana's first medical-legal partnership was launched to create a comprehensive care and advocacy plan for patients whose health is impacted by social determinants of disease. The initiative pooled the resources and knowledge of doctors, lawyers, professors, nurses, public health professionals and social workers. Founding partners were Baker & Daniels, Wishard Health Services, Indiana Health Advocacy Coalition, Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Indiana Legal Services and Indianapolis Legal Aid Society.
On the premise that illnesses are sometimes caused by problems that have legal implications, lawyers in partnership with health professionals have been able to address and resolve issues related to a patient's health more easily than a health care provider could when acting alone.
"We're excited about the way this partnership continues to grow," said Carl Pebworth, a Baker & Daniels partner and chair of the firm's pro bono committee. "It's our hope that, as more medical and legal professionals become aware of the positive impact of this medical-legal collaboration, we will continue to positively affect patient care throughout Indiana communities, both rural and urban alike."
After beginning through Wishard Health Services, the medical-legal partnership now operates at three hospitals and several clinic sites across Central Indiana. In 2010, Wishard and Baker & Daniels launched an expanded program with Wishard's EMBRACE Clinic, which provides women cancer patients with holistic services and comprehensive care. Baker & Daniels lawyers volunteer at the EMBRACE Clinic, serving on patient treatment teams and providing legal assistance in drafting end of life and other health-related documents.
Starting this academic year, lawyers at Baker & Daniels and Eli Lilly are partnering to co-teach a course on civil law at Shortridge in Indianapolis. The initiative is part of Street Law's Corporate Diversity Pipeline Program that matches urban schools with volunteers from corporate legal departments to encourage students of color to enter the legal profession.
Teams of attorneys from Baker & Daniels and Lilly teach classes on a weekly basis to all sophomore students. The course is a mandatory curriculum requirement, meaning approximately 100 students are enrolled in the class. In addition to teaching civil law on a weekly basis, volunteer lawyers are mentoring students throughout the semester and participating in a day-long legal conference with the students at the conclusion of the fall semester, which will be hosted at Lilly's headquarters. In all, approximately 30 lawyers serve as co-teachers and volunteers for this program.
"We recognize the need for pipeline initiatives to help increase diverse talent in the legal profession," said Joe Smith, a Baker & Daniels partner and chair of the firm's diversity committee. "Students are engaged in the course work, and this collaborative partnership provides them with consistent and regular exposure to attorneys in both corporate and private practice. Our goal is to help diversify the professional makeup and legal landscape of the Indianapolis community."
A Columbia Law School study released in early 2010 indicated that the percentage of minority students enrolled in law school dipped significantly between 1993 and 2008, despite the increasing law school capacity across the country. The drop creates a significant challenge, given the recent emphasis within the legal professional for diversity.