Emily Benfer

  • Visiting Associate Clinical Professor of Law

Emily A. Benfer is a visiting associate clinical professor of law. As a well-known authority in the field of health justice, Benfer is recognized for a myriad of social justice and scholarly accomplishments, and a commitment to preparing the next generation of advocates. Her area of clinic practice and research includes health equity and social justice, interprofessional education and collaboration, environmental and racial justice, and medical-legal partnership.

Prior to joining the faculty to direct the Health Justice Advocacy Clinic, Benfer was a Visiting Distinguished Scholar and Senior Fellow at Yale Law School Solomon Center for Health Law & Policy. Between 2010-2017, Benfer served as a Clinical Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine Department of Public Health where she founded and directed the Health Justice Project, a fully integrated medical-legal partnership at Erie Family Health Center in which providers, lawyers, and law students collaborated to resolve the social determinants of poor health for patients. The Health Justice Project received the CLEA Award for Excellence in a Public Interest Case or Project for student leadership in an interprofessional advocacy campaign to protect the four million children in federally assisted housing nationwide from lead poisoning. In addition, the Health Justice Project received the Outstanding Medical-Legal Partnership Award from the National Center for Medical-Legal Partnership.

Before founding the Health Justice Project, Professor Benfer served as a teaching fellow and supervising attorney in the Federal Legislation & Administrative Clinic at Georgetown Law Center. In practice, she was a legislative lawyer in the successful efforts to pass the ADA Amendments Act; to require education assistance for homeless children and youth in Washington, DC; and to align the Illinois definition of lead poisoning with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standard. She has engaged in direct representation, class action litigation, grassroots organizing, creative advocacy strategies, and federal and state policy reform in multiple areas of public interest law, including homelessness, lead poisoning prevention, special education, housing, health, environmental justice, disability, and public benefits at non-profit organizations and a public interest law firm. Benfer has testified before Congress and appeared in numerous media outlets. She served as an Equal Justice Works Fellow and a Peace Corps volunteer.

She was named a Legal Freedom Fighter by Rocket Matter and one of Chicago’s Top 40 Lawyers Under 40 by the National Law Journal. She has received numerous commendations for her commitment to health equity and social justice, including the American Public Health Association David P. Rall Award for Advocacy, Health Innovator Award and the inaugural Schweitzer Leadership Award. In addition, Professor Benfer was named Chicago Person of the Year (group award) for her pro bono work to organize attorneys at O’Hare International Airport in response to the travel ban. Benfer earned her LLM from Georgetown Law Center and JD from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. She received a Certificate in Social Justice and a Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership and Development from Loyola University Chicago.