Elder Law Attorneys


Education and Training Requirements

High School

To become a lawyer, you will need to earn both a bachelor's degree and a law degree after you graduate from high school. To start preparing for this later education and career, take a college preparatory curriculum, including math, science, and even a foreign language, while in high school. Be sure to take courses in social studies, government, history, and economics to prepare for law studies. English courses are also important for building your writing, researching, and speaking skills. And because lawyers often use technology to research and interpret the law, take advantage of any computer-related classes or experience you can get. Even surfing the Internet can provide experience in doing research online.

Postsecondary Training

To enter any law school approved by the American Bar Association (ABA), you must satisfactorily complete at least three, and usually four, years of college work. Most law schools do not specify any particular courses for prelaw education. The traditional majors for college students intending to pursue a postgraduate law degree are history, English, philosophy, political science, economics, and business. Other successful law students have focused their undergraduate studies in areas as diverse as art, music theory, computer science, engineering, nursing, and education. A college student planning to specialize in elder law might also take courses significantly related to that area, such as social sciences, psychology, economics, and courses related to health care.

To gain admission to law school, most programs require applicants to take the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The LSAT tests students on analytical thinking, writing, and problem-solving skills. Most full-time law degree programs take three years to complete. There are more than 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the United States. State authorities approve additional programs, many of them part-time or night school programs that can be completed in four years. You should contact law schools you are interested in to find out specific requirements for their programs. College career services counselors and professors may also be valuable sources of information.

The first year of typical law school programs consists of required courses, such as legal writing and research, contracts, criminal law, constitutional law, torts, and property. First-year law students are required to read and study thousands of legal cases. The second and third years are usually focused on specialized courses of interest to the student. In the case of elder law, students might take course work in public policy, health law, medical ethics, and geriatrics.

Upon completing law school, students usually receive the (J.D.) degree or bachelor of laws (LL.B.) degree.


Some lawyers choose to earn a master of laws (LL.M) degree, an advanced law certification that helps them advance professionally. LL.M programs, which typically last one year, are offered in many areas—such as child and family law, elder law, estate planning, and general law. A general law degree is required for admission to LL.M programs. Visit https://www.lsac.org/llm-other-law-program-applicants for more information. Visit https://www.americanbar.org/groups/legal_education/resources/llm-degrees_post_j_d_non_j_d/programs_by_school for a list of LL.M. specialties and the law schools that offer them.

Other Education or Training

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, American Bar Association, National Association for Law Placement, and state and local bar associations offer a variety of continuing education opportunities. Contact these organizations for more information. Additionally, most law firms provide in-house continuing education opportunities to their employees. Some even offer mentorship programs that pair new lawyers with experienced lawyers to help them interact with clients and coworkers and master other duties.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Specialized voluntary certification is available for elder law attorneys. The National Elder Law Foundation offers certification to attorneys who have been in practice five years or longer, have spent at least 16 hours per week practicing elder law (during the three years preceding their application), have handled at least 60 elder law matters, have had at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law, and have met other requirements. To obtain certification, applicants must also pass an examination. After five years, certified attorneys must be recertified to maintain their status. Additionally, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers voluntary board certification in civil law, family law, social security disability advocacy law, and other areas. Contact the board for more information.

To obtain a law license, lawyers (regardless of their specialization) must be admitted to the bar association of the state in which they will practice. Bar admission standards in most states require that students graduate from an approved law school and that they pass a bar examination in the state in which they intend to practice. These exams, usually lasting two days, have questions about various areas of the law, such as constitutional law and criminal law. The tests may also include an essay section and a professional responsibility section. It is important to note, however, that each state sets its own standards for taking the bar exam, and a few states allow exceptions to the educational requirements. For example, a small number of states allow a person who has spent several years reading law in a law office and has some law school experience to take the state bar exam. A few states allow people who have completed law study through correspondence programs to take the bar. In addition, some states require that newly graduated lawyers serve a period of clerkship in an established law firm before they are eligible to take the bar examination. Because of such variations, you will need to contact the bar examiners board of your state for specific information on its requirements.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Experience as an elder law intern or clerk is highly recommended for aspiring elder law attorneys.

All lawyers have to be effective communicators, work well with people, and be able to find creative solutions to problems, such as complex court cases. Elder lawyers, however, need to have some special skills and personality characteristics. They need to understand how aging affects the mind and body, how conflicts can arise among family members regarding the best interests of an elderly member, and how the family's wishes sometimes are in conflict with those of the older person. This work requires perceptiveness, ethics, and diplomacy. Elder law attorneys must also be good listeners and seek to understand the goals of their clients. Family members may often have differing opinions and agendas, and it is important to remember who your client is.