There is an excellent chance that you will need to consult with an elder law attorney at some point in your life. Whether you need the service of an elder law attorney for yourself or for an older loved one, you may be unsure what to look for in an elder law attorney, if you have never needed one before. The area of “elder law” itself is a relatively new area of the law, meaning that there are likely fewer attorneys in your area who focus on elder law than on other areas of the law. This makes it even more important that you be prepared when you meet with an attorney with a few relevant questions to ask the attorney. You may, of course, have specific questions you wish to pose to a potential elder law attorney; however, the following are some common general questions you may wish to ask as well.
- What education or certification do you have in the area of elder law?
- How long have you been practicing in general?
- How long have you been focusing on elder law issues?
- What percentage of your practice is devoted to elder law and issues related to older individuals?
- Why did you choose to focus on elder law?
- What are your fees for elder law related legal problems?
It is important to find out what type of continuing education and/or certification an attorney has in the area of elder law issues because elder law is not something most attorneys learn in law school. Contrary to what many people believe, attorneys do not choose a “major” or area of specialty while in law school. Instead, they receive a general legal education with the option to take a few specialized classes. Typically, it is not until after law school that an attorney decides in which area of the law he or she will practice. Therefore, continuing education classes and/or certification or affiliation with organizations such as the National Association of Elder Law Attorneys, or NAELA, are important indications that an attorney is knowledgeable about, and devoted to, elder law issues.
Moreover, unlike other areas of the law which require a depth of knowledge in a very narrow area of the law, elder law requires an attorney to have knowledge in all areas of the law which impact older individuals.
By asking a potential elder law attorney the above-referenced questions you should be able to get a better idea if the attorney is the right one for your elder law issues.