The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) is a professional association of attorneys who are dedicated to practicing elder and special needs law in a holistic manner specifically designed to meet the needs of the senior or disabled person.
What began at a meeting of attorneys over three decades ago among lawyers who knew there was a better way to provide legal services to seniors and disabled people has now broadened to become a national organization that has thousands of members. NAELA started as a professional association of elder law attorneys before elder law was even recognized as its own discipline by the American Bar Association. At the time, there was increasing concern nationally about the difficulties that seniors faced and how legal services were provided to them.
NAELA Is Both A Resource And A Community For Committed Elder Law Attorneys
NAELA quickly grew to become something much more. The organization believes that education is the best way to promote more effective legal services that meet the needs of elderly adults and their families. Not only does NAELA have a large knowledge base available to its members, but the organization also offers extensive opportunities for continuing education among its members.
NAELA itself also acts as a public policy advocate for the needs of seniors and disabled people. The organization studies relevant current issues and stakes out advocacy and policy positions. NAELA is also a forum for members to discuss current issues of interest and exchange viewpoints and practice pointers. There are also specialized sections of NAELA that an attorney can join that are dedicated to certain areas of elder law. Belonging to these sections allows the attorney to receive specialized bulletins and pointers about developing areas of the law.
In addition to being a resource and support center for practitioners, NAELA is also a community of attorneys and those interested in the practice of elder law. Members are encouraged to share information and tips with each other to strengthen the entire membership. NAELA members are colleagues who help one another, and the members of the overall group become better lawyers and provide legal services in a more compassionate and effective way.
NAELA Provides Aspirational Standards To Guide Elder Law Attorneys
The key to NAELA is its Aspirational Standards. These standards go beyond the minimum requirements set by a state’s Rules of Professional Conduct. The Aspirational Standards help NAELA attorneys navigate some of the difficult circumstances that may arise when providing legal advice concerning a senior. Invariably, there are challenges that an attorney has to deal with when they are practicing in an area of the law that almost always has significant ethical issues. An attorney is often called on to use their judgment, and they must do it in a sensitive and compassionate way. The Aspirational Standards also address professionalism in the practice of law. The way to look at these standards is that they are guidelines to help the attorney go above and beyond what an average lawyer may be required to do as part of their elder law practice.
Areas covered by the Aspirational Standards include:
- The holistic approach that the elder and special needs attorney should take
- How the attorney should proactively identify issues and the clients early in the process
- How the attorney drafts documents on behalf of the client
- Identifying and handling potential conflicts of interest
- The confidentiality standards that the attorney must follow
- The standards for diligent and competent representation (beyond just what is specified in the Rules of Professional Conduct)
- How the lawyer deals with diminishing client capacity
- How the attorney communicates with and advocates for a client with diminishing capacity
Why You Should Hire A NAELA Member As Your Elder Law Attorney
When an attorney tells you that they are a member of NAELA, it means something. NAELA is not just any professional association. It is a commitment that a lawyer makes about how they will conduct their own personal practice of law. NAELA membership means a combination of:
- High ethical standards
- Continued commitment to maintaining and advancing professional knowledge
- And legal services provided in a spirit of professionalism.
When you hire an elder law attorney, you are placing a great deal of trust in them. Your loved one’s future may depend in part on the legal advice and service that you receive from your attorney. Your attorney should be committed to maintaining and advancing their knowledge because they may learn additional skills and techniques that they can use to help your family member. In addition, you want to know that the attorney is equipped to handle any issues in an ethical and professional way.
An attorney who is a member of NAELA has made a statement that they will provide legal services with the highest standards of ethics. They are committed to following the Aspirational Standards and going above and beyond the minimum amount expected of them as an attorney. They are making a commitment to you and your family.
In some ways, you can tell the mark of an attorney’s character by the company that they keep. When they have joined the NAELA community, they are associated with the best in the profession in a mutual commitment to do right by your loved one. NAELA members are the leading practitioners of elder law with a track record of helping clients and being active in the elder law community. Therefore, one of the questions that you should ask a prospective elder law attorney is whether they are a member of NAELA. Members will proudly identify themselves because they strongly believe in the mission of the NAELA.
Contact A Pennsylvania Elder Law Attorney Today
Attorney Joshua N. Daly, the lead elder law attorney at Daly Law Offices, is a proud member of NAELA. You can rely on him to provide compassionate legal counsel when you and your family need it the most. We are committed to listening and getting to know your family’s situation, and then helping you find practical solutions that can give you peace of mind. Schedule a free consultation today so you can discuss your issue and learn more about what we can do to serve you!