FROM THE NATIONAL ELDER LAW FOUNDATION: When you look for an attorney to help you with a special needs or elder law issue, you should look first at Certified Elder Law Attorneys near you. Why? Because they have demonstrated that they understand your legal problems, and they can help you.
The Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs practitioners. This reflects the hard work and proof required before an attorney can proudly proclaim that he or she holds the valued designation.
Preparation for a CELA designation includes several steps and several different types of qualification, all of which are designed to assure that clients receive good legal care. Before being certified, an applicant must:
- Have practiced law for at least five years, and have focused at least half of their practice in the special needs/elder law field for at least the last three of those years.
- Demonstrate “substantial involvement” in special needs and elder law practice, by demonstrating a minimum number of individual cases, spread across a number of different categories making up the “elder law” definition.
- Study for, take and pass a rigorous, day-long written examination. Recent pass rates have been below 50% — and that is of applicants who have already met the experience requirements.
- Undergo a review by peers and colleagues, focused on the applicant’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning matters.
There are only a little more than 400 CELAs in the country, so not every community has even one person who has been certified. Your lawyer should be a CELA — it is your surest method of independently confirming that she (or he) is more than just qualified. After all, you deserve the best legal representation available.