Elder Law Attorneys
The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) reports that it currently has more than 3,800 members. The majority of practicing elder law attorneys in the United States work in private practice, either in law firms or alone. While it may seem that the best employment possibilities might be found in large cities and metropolitan areas, there is also fierce competition in these places. Many attorneys practice elder law in addition to other areas of law. Additionally, clients often come to their regular attorneys for elder issues that arise in their lives. Since elder law is so client-oriented, the logical approach is to practice where there is a large population of elderly people; therefore, smaller, more rural areas offer numerous opportunities. In addition, the cost of living is lower in these areas, and since the majority of people seeking elder law attorneys are not wealthy and cannot pay astronomical fees, the elder law attorney will find living on a typical income easier in these areas.
After graduation from law school, a lawyer's first task is to pass the state bar examination. A new lawyer will often find a job with a law firm, doing research for other lawyers until passing the bar examination and becoming licensed to practice law. Beginning lawyers usually do not go into solo practice right away. It is difficult to become established, and the experience of working beside established lawyers is helpful to the fledgling lawyer. Newly admitted lawyers typically do research and routine work at first. Specialization usually occurs after a lawyer has some experience in general practice, although lawyers at smaller firms might find themselves guided to particular areas earlier. After a few years of successful experience, a lawyer may be ready to go out on his or her own.
Many new lawyers are recruited directly from law school by law firms or other employers. Recruiters come to the law school and interview possible hires. Recent graduates can also get job leads from local and state bar associations.
To start building a practice in elder law, take as many cases that fall into the realm of elder law as you can and become a member of the NAELA. When you have enough experience under your belt and meet the necessary qualifications, become certified as an elder law attorney with the National Elder Law Foundation.
Lawyers with outstanding ability may expect to go a long way in their profession. Beginning lawyers generally start out doing routine research tasks, but as they prove themselves and develop their abilities, opportunities for advancement will arise. They may be promoted to junior partner in a law firm or establish their own practice focused on elder law.
Advancement for elder law attorneys can also take the form of leadership positions in nonprofit organizations that serve to advance education and competence in the field. There are many opportunities to make a contribution to the elderly population by working to support or change the laws and policies that affect senior citizens. In this unique area of legal practice, the potential for reward, although usually not as financially large as other areas of the law, is great.
Tips for Entry
Read publications such as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Journal to learn more about the field.
Use the NALP Directory of Legal Employers (http://www.nalpdirectory.com) to search for employers by location, employer type, practice areas, and other criteria.
Attend conferences held by the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) and American Bar Association (ABA) to network and to interview for jobs.
Join the NAELA, ABA, and other law associations to access training and networking resources, career information, industry publications, and employment opportunities.
Visit https://www.americanbar.org/careercenter for job listings.