A Dream Come True: I Am a Certified Elder Law Attorney!*
*Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (which may be abbreviated “CELA” or “CELA®”) by the National Elder Law Foundation.
I am thrilled to share that I have earned the designation of Certified Elder Law Attorney from the National Elder Law Foundation! This a major accomplishment requiring Herculean study over the course of six months, taking me away from my family, a grueling day-long exam in March that felt more painful (is that possible?) than the State of Delaware Bar Exam I took 23 years ago, waiting months to learn if I passed the exam, finding out I passed (hooray!), and then completing and submitting a daunting application in early July, which required me to show I completed at least 60 elder law matters across 12 substantive areas in the last three years, 45 hours of continuing legal education, and more than 5 peer references from esteemed elder law and other attorneys familiar with my work. The last week of July I received the word: I made it! I am now a Certified Elder Law Attorney!
To those who lived and worked with me for the last year, or for that matter, for the last six years, you KNOW what this process took and how important it was to me - and to my law firm team – not only that I study for and take the test – but that I pass.
In recent years the pass rate has hovered below 50%.
Ever since I first met Bill Erhart, I knew that becoming a CELA was what I wanted to do.
The story of how I came to work with Bill is special to me. For 15 years I practiced and/or taught Delaware corporate law at several major, well respected Delaware law firms with attorneys who set the standards for Delaware corporate excellence. I was so lucky to be a part of that. And I taught corporate and business law to undergraduate students at Wilmington University, Goldey-Beacom College, and Widener University, which I enjoyed tremendously. But I also was a member of a close family, losing someone dearer than words, in that time frame, all the while having young children of my own. I learned firsthand, as we all do, what families go through when their loved ones age or have difficulties. After taking a short time off to help with family matters, I decided to change paths completely and dedicate myself to learning and practicing elder law. This is where Bill comes in. I approached Bill, asking to volunteer to learn the field while I went back to school. Instead of taking me on as a volunteer, Bill hired me, taking a chance, and teaching me every day since then.
Bill is and has been the only CELA in Delaware.
I am now the second.
We are the only CELAs in Delaware.
With Bill’s tutelage and my dedication, the CELA designation represents what we have been working towards – together – for these years.
But more importantly, I wanted to engage in deep study of the 12 subjects needed for the CELA exam – and pass the exam and meet all of the grueling practice requirements – to achieve the level of competence I knew I needed to serve our clients well. When you choose a doctor, you need to KNOW he or she is competent. One cannot help if one is not competent. All those months of study and pain were a tried and true process for me to achieve that level of competence, and to be recognized as having that level of competence by the proper governing body, the National Elder Law Foundation (“NELF”) who is accredited by the American Bar Association, as one of the over 500 CELAs in the entire country.
Those who know me, know, I am committed to the populations we serve. I care deeply about the elderly, the aging, and their families – and all they are going through. I care about persons with special needs, whether young or aging, and their families, and all they are going through, too. I know that families do not know where to go, or what they need. I am grateful to fill that gap. Families need a competent, experienced, relevant professional to identify what they need and provide it.
I am lucky to spend my days working to help families. By earning this credential, I now have more abilities to share with families than I did before. And those higher abilities compound over time, like interest.
If you would like to learn more about the CELA credential, see the NELF website at: https://nelf.org/page/WhyyouneedaCertifiedElderLawAttorney.