Duke Law Offers FREE Legal Services To DCI Cancer Patients

January 23, 2015
By: Karen E. Butler, Director of Communications, DCI

Duke Law, the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono, offers free legal services to Duke Cancer Institute patients. Services include drafting legal documents, such as power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, living will and HIPAA release forms.

“Duke law students, under the direction of a licensed attorney, are on-site at the cancer center twice monthly to provide pro bono legal assistance to patients,” said Kim Burrucker, director of public interest and pro bono at the Duke University School of Law. “When faced with a diagnosis of cancer, many patients find they have not adequately planned for a future that may include an inability to oversee one’s personal affairs. A power of attorney allows a designated individual the authority to make arrangements and pay bills on behalf of another. Drafting a power of attorney is just one of many legal services we provide to DCI patients at no cost.”

Duke Law students have been offering pro bono services since 1991. Although they do not provide legal advice, representation or counsel on any legal matter or case, students offer many other legal services through the Duke Law Pro Bono Project.

“The Pro Bono Project takes learning beyond the classroom, connecting students with attorneys working in non-profit and governmental organizations,” Burrucker said. “The project allows students to explore and contribute to public service, sharpen their legal and professional skills and gain real world experience.”

Members of the Duke Law School Class of 2012 contributed more than 11,938 pro bono hours over the three years enrolled at Duke University. According to Burrucker, 98 percent of the Class of 2014 engaged in in some level of pro bono work.

Extended legal services are also offered by Duke law students through the Duke Law HIV and Cancer Legal Project.

“People with serious illnesses can face a variety of legal issues,” said Allison Rice, supervising attorney with Duke Law School. “The Duke Law HIV and Cancer Legal Project is the only law office in North Carolina devoted exclusively to issues important to people with HIV and cancer. Issues addressed include Social Security and private disability, public benefits, permanency planning for children of parents with illnesses, estate and end-of-life planning, insurance, employment, family medical leave, privacy and discrimination.”

The Duke Law HIV and Cancer Legal Project offers legal representation to patients who can’t afford an attorney. All work is closely supervised by a licensed faculty attorney. Law students meet with patients by appointment. To participate, patients must have income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $29,000 for a single person. Patients can contact the HIV and Cancer Legal Project at 919.613.7169.

I highly recommend our services to Duke Cancer Institute patients,” said Sarah Chappell, who will this spring receive her graduate degree in law. “We assist with the preparation of important documents related to personal financial matters, end of life issues and more. It’s vital that a patient’s wishes are carried out as outlined. These documents ensure that the patient’s requests are followed.”

Free legal services through the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono are available to Duke Cancer Institute patients from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m. on the first and third Friday of every month. Patients can sign-in in the lobby of the cancer center. Private consultations take place in the Resource Center, Skills Lab, Room 0N10. To participate, patients must be residents of North Carolina. For more information, contact the Duke Law Cancer Pro Bono Legal Project at 919.613.7278.

Circle photo: Sarah Chappell, a third-year law student with the Duke Law, the Office of Public Interest and Pro Bono, offers, along with other law student volunteers, free legal services to Duke Cancer Institute patients the first and third Friday of every month.