The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) celebrated its 25th anniversary last week in Atlanta - commemorating its past achievements, analyzing current legal and demographic issues and preparing for future growth and development.
Among many former NAELA Presidents in attendance, Vincent Russo was given the honor and challenge of reviewing NAELA's "25 years in 25 minutes". Russo's historic overview highlighted NAELA's early decision to open its legal membership on a "non-exclusive" basis to create a new breed of attorneys dedicated to community service. NAELA's membership has expanded its focus in recent years to embrace special needs as well as elder law issues.
With more than 4300 members and a strong financial balance sheet, NAELA's resources now include: the NAELA Foundation, multiple publications including the NAELA Journal, Aspirational Professional Standards, a vibrant website featuring a comprehensive library and hosting NAELA's active online community, specific practice sections, state chapters, robust educational conferences and certification programs, multiple annual awards, plus a highly competent staff.
NAELA's 2013 Annual Conference agenda offered a diverse educational experience plus 26 exhibitors for more than 250 attendees. One of the featured topics was financial "elder abuse", a serious and under-reported problem with an estimated annual cost exceeding $3 billion in the United States.
Guest speakers addressing financial elder abuse included Mickey Rooney and Tony West. Rooney, the 92 year old actor, testified about elder abuse before a U.S. Senate committee in 2011. Appearing at NAELA's conference via live video, Rooney described how he was victimized and rendered penniless by two of his stepchildren. West, Acting Associate U.S. Attorney General, oversees the U.S. government's efforts to prevent elder abuse.
Additional topics that received multiple presentations at the NAELA conference:
- Skill development - advice for running a successful elder law and/or special needs legal practice.
- How changing demographics are impacting special needs and elder law practice.
- Social media and related Internet technologies.
- Fiduciary responsibilities for attorneys representing special needs individuals.
- Legal updates - for estate planning, special needs and elder law.
- Drawing a line on what constitutes the practice of law.
- The future of long term care.
Structured Settlements and Special Needs Planning
Patrick Hindert, author of the "Beyond Structured Settlements" blog, spoke at the NAELA conference about the challenges of integrating structured settlements and special needs planning into a collaborative settlement planning profession. Hindert's presentation addressed:
- What is known (and not known) about settlement planning.
- Why structured settlements and settlement planning are strategically important for special needs attorneys.
- New standards and practices that are reshaping settlement planning.
- Public policy issues which will determine the future of settlement planning.
- How special needs attorneys can expand their settlement planning practice.
The Future of Elder and Special Needs Law
To help celebrate NAELA's 25th anniversary, the NAELA Journal is dedicating its 2013 Spring and Fall editions to a two-part symposium on the future of Elder and Special Needs Law. The editors have asked leading U.S. legal authorities "to predict what the law and our practices might look like 25 years from now and the challenges that clients, our society, and we, as Elder and Special Needs Law attorneys, will face."
Congratulations to all NAELA conference participants, especially NAELA President Gregory French and conference Co-Chairpersons Rebecca Morgan and Edwin Boyer, for an outstanding 25th anniversary meeting. Continued success for NAELA and its members in representing and advocating for the rights of elderly and special needs individuals.
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