Big Law veteran Allison Charney has been named as the executive director of the Mount Sinai Medical Legal Partnership, a group that helps patients with Covid-19-related matters like seeking unemployment benefits, visa extensions, public benefits, and child custody.
Charney was previously a partner at Foley & Lardner and, earlier, at McGuireWoods. She was a founding member of the medical legal partnership, which is known by its initials MSMLP, and has served as co-chair of the organization’s board of directors since it was formed in 2014.
The independent group works to assure low-income patients get access to free and confidential legal services, which are provided by pro bono lawyers from well-known New York firms, including Proskauer Rose. The group’s board chair is Bettina Plevan, a labor and employment partner at Proskauer.
MSMLP partners with Duane Morris; Latham & Watkins; Hughes Hubbard & Reed; Schulte Roth & Zabel; and Wachtell, Lipson Rosen & Katz, as well as Proskauer. It also works with lawyers from the Legal Aid Society, LegalHealth and other groups.
Charney started the job in February, quickly running into the difficulties of operating legal clinics while the coronavirus pandemic was spreading in the New York area.
“I had no idea the pandemic was coming, but things changed dramatically,” she said. “The way Covid was moving so fast into people’s lives, issues were magnified.”
As Covid-19 admissions to the Mount Sinai hospital system began to expand dramatically, elective surgeries were halted in March and non-essential employees were sent home. MSMLP had to switch quickly from having physical clinics to remote legal assistance, Charney said.
“We had to shut the clinics down and come up with an alternative quickly,” she said.
The group worked with its partners to devise a remote model that provides a central phone number and attorney referral for its clinics and targeted programs, she said. At first the number of cases slid, she said, but MSMLP increased efforts to make sure social workers and health providers knew about the switch to remote legal assistance.
Charney said the number of cases has risen to normal levels, and services continue to be provided remotely.
“It may take a little longer, but we are able to handle the issues that come up,” she said.