Any lawyer can say he or she practices “elder law.” And there are quite a few lawyers who hold themselves out as being “elder law attorneys” but who have little or no experience in this area of practice. You don’t want an attorney who is “practicing” in this difficult area of law, you want someone with the experience, knowledge and qualifications to provide you competent representation.
How do you find that qualified individual? You don’t have to guess — look for a Certified Elder Law Attorney. The CELA certification by the National Elder Law Foundation is the only accepted certification in the field of Elder Law and it is the only ABA approved Elder Law Certification that is recognized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. The purpose of the certification program is to identify those lawyers who have the enhanced knowledge, skills, experience and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as certified elder law attorneys. Only lawyers who are certified as CELAs can state that they are certified specialists in elder law and can use the “CELA” professional designation.
Very few attorneys have achieved the status of certified elder law attorney. Why? The screening process is rigorous in order to ensure that the the attorney has chosen to focus on elder law issues and has the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to provide expert advice.
The process requires:
- Handling at least 60 elder law matters and practicing elder law for at least 16 hours per week for at least 3 years prior to applying for certification;
- Obtaining favorable peer references from five other elder law attorneys;
- Completing extra continuing legal education beyond that required by lawyers who are not certified;
- Satisfactorily completing an all day examination on a variety of elder law topics. Few lawyers have the knowledge required to become certified. The passage rate on the certification exam in recent years has been under 40%.;
- Meeting similar requirements every 5 years to be re-certified.
Obtaining certification is not an easy task; in fact, there are only 68 CELAs in Pennsylvania. Attorneys Marianne Kreisher and Marissa Marshall of Kreisher Marshall & Associates, LLC are the only certified elder law attorneys in Columbia and Montour counties. In addition, our attorneys are not only members of various organizations but active participants. Attorney Marianne Kreisher serves on the Elder Law Council for the Pennsylvania Bar Association and has obtained her National Guardianship Certification. Attorney Marissa Marshall is the Chair of the Membership Committee for the Pennsylvania Association of Elder Law Attorneys. Both attorneys regularly teach for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute to educate other attorneys on advanced elder law issues and are co-authors of the Medical Assistance Marital Issues in the Elder Law in Pennsylvania, 5th Ed.
Don’t be mislead by attorneys holding themselves out as elder law attorneys who have not pursued and obtained the CELA designation.By choosing a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), you can be assured that you are receiving expert advice from an attorney who has demonstrated her commitment to YOU, the client, by pursuing certification. For more information on the certification process and located a qualified, certified elder law attorney, visit www.nelf.org.