Quantifying the Need for Attorney Pro Bono Services in Connection with the Social Determinants of Health

Cornell University

Bradley Merrill Thompson, Member of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, in the firm’s Washington, DC, office, co-authored an academic paper on data science, law, and health as part of a Master of Applied Data Science program at the University of Michigan School of information, titled “Quantifying the Need for Attorney Pro Bono Services in Connection with the Social Determinants of Health,” published by Cornell University.

Following is an excerpt:

The paper estimates the need for additional attorney hours annually to address the legal needs of indigent clients throughout the United States in matters that comprise the so-called social determinants of health (SDoH). The result will inform stakeholders such as policy makers and private donors so they can allocate resources appropriately and design programs to close the do-called justice gap. As a pilot study, the scope of the project covers only a few major justice problems related to the social determinants of health (standard housing, evictions and foreclosures, guardianships for the incapacitated, and victims of domestic violence) because they significantly impact health outcomes and there are data available. Based on our calculations, we estimate that the total number of attorney hours to address only these five legal issues is over 34 million per year. To put that in perspective, the American Bar Association estimated that in 2018, the year from which much of our data comes, the total number of practicing attorneys in the United States was 1,338,678 (Weiss). Thus, to provide the needed hours, every single practicing attorney in the United States would need to contribute about 26 hours a year. While many lawyers do in fact contribute pro bono hours, they address the full range of legal needs that go well beyond just the five we studied.