As with many specialties, Elder Law Attorneys have two nationally recognized professional organizations which they can join. The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys (AAEPA) and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, Inc. (NAELA). Both professional associations are dedicated to enhancing the quality of legal services available for the aging and for people with special needs.
The American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys
The AAEPA was originally established by an extremely successful estate planning law firm, Armstrong and Fisch. After more than twenty years of providing superb estate planning services to clients, in 1992 the firm agreed to share its successful methods and practices to other attorneys nationwide. Now, the AAEPA is a nationally recognized organization that provides its members with current research on estate and tax planning laws and issues, helpful educational materials and many other necessary resources. These membership benefits enable attorneys to provide superior estate planning services in their own firms.
THE AAEPA believes that substantive training is necessary for Elder Law attorneys to be effective counselors for their clients. The organization offers more than 40 hours of relevant CLEs each year and its members are expected to complete 36 hours each year, which can be met through local CLEs, audio recordings or live conferences. Members of AAEPA have focused their law practice on estate planning. They receive continuing training on the specific area of estate planning from the AAEPA. Therefore, they are required to gain knowledge and expertise based on the latest information and reliable resources.
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
NAELA members can join one of the 26 state chapters that have been established, in order to become involved in Elder Law practice at the grassroots level. Founded in 1987, this organization’s membership is made up of attorneys in both private practice and the public sector who deal primarily with those legal issues affecting individuals as they are aging and others with disabilities. Many of their members include not only attorneys, but also judges, law professors and law students.
NAELA’s primary focus is on providing education to attorneys, by offering various continuing legal education (CLE) programs on Elder Law topics throughout the year. NAELA provides educational materials and publications to its members on important Elder law topics as well. NAELA also promotes advocacy by providing support to various organizations involved in serving the aging and disabled. Face-to-face meetings and workshops are conducted regularly to allow for lawyer networking and opportunities for professional growth.
The American Bar Association
Although the American Bar Association is not devoted to the practice of Elder Law, it is one of the world’s largest professional organizations, with nearly 400,000 members. The organization is dedicated to improving the legal profession. The American Bar Association is divided into many different sections, focusing on certain legal specialties. Elder Law attorneys can become members of the Real Property, Trust and Estate section. This diverse group of almost 24,000 U.S. and international lawyers, paralegals, real estate and financial services professionals, law students and legal educators, provides leadership and expertise to assist members in better serving their clients.