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03.31.23   |   Insights

What is a Certified Elder Law Attorney?

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The concept of “elder law” is becoming more prevalent as more senior citizens are experiencing a need for expensive long-term care—whether it be in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or in-home care.

People are finding it challenging to afford such care (with a state monthly average cost of almost $7,500) without some public benefits assistance—the most common public benefit to help pay for this care is Medicaid. Further, folks are faced with difficulties in navigating through the tricky Medicaid waters. As such, people turn to elder law attorneys for guidance. But, with elder law being such a complex and relatively new area, what sets the standard for a certified elder law attorney?

There is only one national organization accredited by the American Bar Association to certify elder law attorneys—the National Elder Law Foundation. Attorneys certified in elder law by the National Elder Law Foundation (referred to as CELAs) have achieved the highest level of excellence in the performance of their profession. To start the process of becoming a CELA, the attorney must first have been practicing law for at least five years with at least the past three of those five years in primarily the area of elder law. Next, the attorney must begin the application process and register for a rigorous full-day national elder law exam that encompasses twelve sub-areas of elder law. Once an Ohio attorney has successfully passed the national exam, that Ohio attorney must take a state exam. After passing that exam, the attorney must then demonstrate to the National Elder Law Foundation that the attorney has handled at least sixty elder law case matters over the past three years. Once that process is complete, the attorney must submit at least five professional references from attorneys outside of that attorney’s law firm.

The process to become certified is quite a challenge and to date, there are only 38 certified elder law attorneys in the state of Ohio. However, perhaps the most important part of the CELA certification is maintaining the certification. In order for a CELA to remain a CELA, that attorney must keep up-to-date with the latest in elder law by partaking in rigorous continuing legal education elder law courses. Specifically, every five years, a CELA must demonstrate to the National Elder Law Foundation that he or she has participated in at least 75 hours of elder law continuing legal education.

Critchfield has two Certified Elder Law Attorneys—Attorney Ann Salek, (330) 723-6404, working primarily in Medina County, and Attorney Nicole Hawks, (419) 289-6888, working primarily in Ashland County. Critchfield is one of just two firms to have CELAs in Medina County. Critchfield is the only law firm to have CELAs in Ashland County. Both Ann and Nicole are also available to assist those in need in other counties that do not have a CELA—including Wayne, Holmes, Huron, and Coshocton.

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