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Elder Law Attorney Job Description, Career as a Elder Law Attorney, Salary, Employment - Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

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Education and Training:— Advanced degree and certification in elder law.

Salary: Median— $102,470 annually

Employment Outlook:— Good

Attorneys who specialize in the legal requirements of the elderly are known as elder law attorneys. They act as advisors and advocates. They deal with the elderly, their families, and care givers. Their area of expertise includes wills, probate, guardianship, estate planning, and trusts. Elder law attorneys also assist in finance management, social security issues, and Medicare and Medicaid laws.

Elder law attorneys often work in tandem with other professionals who deal with aged people. Apart from advising clients about personal and health care rights, they often collaborate with the health care provider, insurance provider, and financial planner to ensure that the rights of their clients are preserved.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to become an elder law attorney, one must apply to a law school after completion of the undergraduate degree program. Candidates need to pass the Law School Admissions Test (L.S.A.T.) to gain admission in a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA). On receiving the Juris Doctor degree, a candidate has to apply for approval from the ABA and the state bar association. Only some states like Maine, New York, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming, allow candidates to seek approval from their bars without formal law school degrees.

Lawyers wishing to specialize in elder law need to obtain certification from the Board of Certification of The National Elder Law Foundation. For this, one must practice for at least 5 years and be involved primarily in elder law for the 3 years prior to application for certification. This involvement must include at least 45 hours of legal education. The certificate is granted to those who pass a written test and produce favorable references from five attorneys dealing with elder law. This certification needs to be renewed every 5 years.

Getting the Job

Lawyers usually start out as associates and work under experienced lawyers and judges. They may also get into partnerships with firms specializing in elder law. Openings for such positions are often advertised in newspapers. A large number of websites also offer information on employment opportunities for elder law attorneys. It is advisable to first get in touch with a local lawyer or business and start as an apprentice. Better job opportunities are easier to come by once one has gained substantial experience.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Attorneys begin their careers as associates of established lawyers or judges, and gradually become partners of firms or set up their own private practices. Alternatively, elder law attorneys join the legal team of for-profit or non-profit corporations. In such organizations, lawyers can work up to administrative and managerial positions. Elder law attorneys also work as government lawyers. They may even become instructors at law schools.

Employment opportunities for elder law attorneys are expected to grow by 11% in the next few years. The prospects for attorneys of elder law should improve because the proportion of older people in the population is increasing and Medicare and Medicaid issues are becoming more complicated.

Working Conditions

Like other lawyers, elder law attorneys work in offices, libraries, and courts. They often meet their clients in their homes. They may even be required to visit clients at hospitals or in prisons.

Elder law attorneys often have to work for long hours, especially when their cases are being tried in court. Those who hold salaried positions enjoy structured work schedules. However, long and irregular hours are very common. In fact, more than 35% of elder law attorneys put in above 50 hours per week. Preparation of briefs often involves time consuming research and interviews.

Where to Go for More Information

National Elder Law Foundation
6336 N. Oracle Rd., Ste. 326, #136,
Tucson, AZ 85704
http://www.nelf.org/

American Bar Association
321 North Clark St., Chicago, IL 60610.
http://www.abanet.org

National Association for Law Placement
1025 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 1110, Washington, DC 20036.
http://www.nalp.org

National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
1577 Spring Hill Road, Suite 220
Vienna, VA 22182
http://www.naela.com/

Elder Law Journal
http://home.law.uiuc.edu/elderlaw/

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

According to the statistics of 2009, the median salary of elder law attorneys is $51,000 per year. Starting salaries are generally in the range of $30,000 to $40,000 per year, but with experience, elder law attorneys can earn as much as $110,000 every year.

Salaried attorneys enjoy paid leaves, health and life insurance, and pensions comparable with benefits offered to employees in other industries. Attorneys who operate independently do not have access to such perks.

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