Health Law is a broad field both in terms of the nature of the clients and the nature of the issues. Health care lawyers work in many settings. They work in law firms of all sizes, but are often in larger firms with departments specializing in health care law. They work for nonprofit advocacy groups and also work directly for health care providers, as in-house counsel for hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, and health maintenance organizations. Finally, others work for government agencies or for professional and trade associations, such as state hospital associations, medical associations, and nursing associations.

Health care lawyers in private practice often represent health care providers, such as hospitals, nursing homes, health maintenance organizations, physicians, dentists, clinical laboratories, and health insurance carriers, to name just a few. These providers often seek legal advice on general corporate and employment matters but also need representation on issues unique to the health care industry. They may, for instance, represent clients before state and federal agencies that regulate the industry. Health care lawyers also represent consumers and patients on issues related to their care. Those in government agencies may do regulatory work or represent the state against nursing homes, insurance companies, or medical personnel involved in licensing issues.

Health Law covers a broad array of matters, including those involving Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, certificates of need, insurance regulation, medical-staff relationships, bioethics, informed consent, risk management, professional licensure and certification. Health care lawyers may also assist their clients with many types of litigation, from antitrust to health care fraud. Because the health care industry is highly regulated, health care lawyers carefully monitor legislation concerning the industry and may be involved in developing legislative strategies and as lobbyists.

Core/Foundation Courses

These are the entry level courses that — at a minimum — employers expect a student interested in this specialty to have .

Recommended Courses

Students interested in this practice area should consider including one or more of the following courses as electives.

Enrichment Courses

These courses deepen or broaden the skills and substantive information that a lawyer in this field needs and also provide advanced courses for students interested in a specialty within this area of practice.

(Students interested in health law are encouraged to consider some courses outside of the Law School (limited to 6 credits total)
— see below)

The following enrichment courses are offered by other schools and departments across the University (limited to 6 credits towards J.D.)

  • Determinants of Population Health
  • Economics of Health Care
  • Health Economics
  • International Health Systems
  • Introduction to Finance
  • Introduction to Health Services Research
  • Monitoring Population Health
  • Seminar: Contemporary Issues in Health Care

(Note that whether a particular course is scheduled depends on faculty availability and student demand.)

More courses and health-related curriculum guides linked at the Center for Patient Partnership's Education page.

For Health Law curriculum questions, contact:

Martha (Meg) E. Gaines
Clinical Professor of Law
Room 4312B

Sarah Davis
Clinical Assistant Professor
Room 4312A

Clinics, Internships, and Externships

Center for Patient Partnerships

The Center advocates for patients as they interface with health care providers, insurers, and other parties. In general, "advocacy" focuses on problem solving and communication to help patients and providers partner in decision-making, and for patients to then get access to desired treatment.  Activities include accompanying and advocating for a patient with providers, insurers, and other parties in informal problem solving and grievance hearings. The clinic accepts new students each semester in course 768: Health Advocacy and Patient Centered Care Clinical.  


Second and third-year law students can receive academic credit, through the Law Externship course, for externship work at health care organizations such as the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Office of Compliance and Privacy; the UW Health Office of General Counsel; Public Health Madison Dane County; and any other nonprofit or government agency or corporate legal department that has a significant health law practice.  Contact Externship Director Erin McBride at for more information. 

Student Organizations and Related Activities

Health Law Student Association

The UW Health Law Student Association provides resources, networking opportunities, and a forum to discuss legal issues for students interested in health and public health law. We seek to prepare our members for careers in these fast-growing fields.


Here are some of the full-time faculty who teach or have an interest in this subject area:

R. Alta Charo
Room 6109

Sarah Davis
Room 4312A

Martha (Meg) E. Gaines
Room 4312B

Pilar N. Ossorio
Room 9103

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