Health Law Program Ranked Among Nation’s Best

Collaboration with leading academic health centers, a strong clinical offering, and a stellar faculty focused on addressing society’s health inequities are some of the qualities that likely secured UC Hastings Law its #13 ranking for health law programs in U.S. News and World Report.

Sarah M. Hooper, executive director of the UCSF/UC Hastings Consortium on Law, Science & Health Policy, said she was delighted by the recognition for the program, which has been ranked in the top 20 nationwide since shortly after it was launched in 2009.

“What I like about health law,” Hooper said, “and what draws a lot of students, is it’s an area of law that affects everybody and where lawyers can really have an impact.”

One example is the Consortium’s health equity work, which accelerated and changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID made visible things we’ve known for a really long time,” she said, about how minority communities have poorer health outcomes and less access to health care and vaccines. To explore the many reasons for these inequities and what role the law plays, the Consortium organized a series of events. The events drew wide interest across the student body, even among those who weren’t pursuing a health law concentration.

“Health is very personal for everybody,” she said. “Law students come to law school to make change, especially UC Hastings students.”

Through the Consortium with UCSF, which collaborates with hospitals and UCSF teaching schools, grant-funded research fellows investigate the root causes of health inequities and other problems at the intersection of health, law, and policy. Issues include health care costs and competition, aging and end of life care, and neurodiversity. The goal is to improve health care for everyone.

UC Hastings also partners with UCSF and the San Francisco VA Medical Center to offer students an innovative clinical experience. The Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors Clinic (MLPS) provides advance health care planning, estate planning, public benefits, and wrap-around legal services for older adult patients.

Students find that a background in health law primes them for a wide variety of career opportunities, from helping health-related tech startups get off the ground to consulting lawmakers and government agencies on health policy. UC Hastings who graduate with a health law concentration have gone on to work for Genentech, the California Department of Public Health, UCSF, private law firms, and others.

Kevin Souza (’17) landed his first job out of law school as general counsel for nonprofit health provider Family HealthCare Network in Visalia. Such in-house positions are usually reserved for more seasoned lawyers, since they touch all aspects of an organization on legal issues ranging from privacy to employment law. But Souza said UC Hastings’ health law program’s foundational courses and strong alumni network prepared him for the “jack-of-all-trades” role.

“At the core, attorneys are problem-solvers,” he said. “Sometimes it’s as easy as Google search. Other times it’s finding out what each party wants and coming up with a compromise.”

Carlia Suba (’17) said her health law concentration experience—especially a confidence-boosting clinical experience representing a small, local clinic in the Tenderloin—set her up for success.

Suba gravitated toward the health law program in her first year at UC Hastings while taking a course with Professor Jamie King, an advocate for health reform. As a recent Peace Corps volunteer, Suba was seeking a way to have a positive impact in society. King helped her see how broad and exciting the field could be at a time when the Affordable Care Act was being rolled out to increase health insurance coverage.

Now Suba works for Covered California, advising the team that’s helping small businesses provide health care coverage for their employees. Most recently, she’s been answering questions about the COVID-19 stimulus package, which provided premium subsidies to people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Erin Sclar (’20) decided to pursue the regulatory and litigation side of health law and now represents health care providers as an associate at Hooper, Lundy & Bookman in San Francisco.

Sclar, who had a career in health policy advocacy for a Washington, D.C.-based hospital association after undergraduate school, chose UC Hastings specifically for its highly regarded health law program.

The courses not only brought her up to speed on recent changes in the U.S. health care system and laws, and the legal issues that frequently arise for doctors and hospitals, but also gave her practical experience on how to review contractors and respond to client questions.

“I have very high regard for Sarah, and the Consortium, and the health law program in general,” Sclar said. “I appreciated the opportunity to be able to learn from them.”