It happened again last Friday, at a Starbucks. Someone asked me what kind of law I practice. No matter how many times I am asked that simple question, I panic. I’ve never been able to come up with an effective elevator speech (a clear, brief message about what one does for a living, typically about 30 seconds, the time it takes to ride from the top to the bottom of a building in an elevator) that really explains my law practice. So, at Starbucks, I answered as I usually do, “probate, estate planning, will and trust contests and elder law,” and as usual the guy had a look on his face of either pity or complete lack of comprehension.
The fact is, there is no way to explain in 30 seconds what this firm is about. The list of things that we can do is impressive. Yes, we handle probate, estate planning, will and trust litigation and elder law. But we also represent people with disabilities, prepare special needs trusts, fight for elderly victims of abuse and exploitation, initiate guardianships and conservatorships, and help families understand the complex regulations related to public benefits. Our firm handles special education cases, offers tax and business planning and will serve as executor, trustee or conservator when an independent, professional is necessary. Simply trying to explain elder law can take much longer than the typical elevator ride. Elder law is a remarkably diverse area of practice. It encompasses issues effecting the lives of the “elderly,” a population which may include anyone from a ninety-five year-old nursing home resident to a sixty-five year-old tri-athlete, or for one of my clients, a ninety-four year old Senior Olympian. As elder law attorneys, we must understand and offer advice about Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, guardianship proceedings, estate planning, nursing home care, pension and other retirement plans, elder abuse, and family matters, such as the meddling child, grandparent visitation and prenuptial agreements.
Our clients often come to us in the midst of a crisis, and in addition to solving their legal problems, we can offer them a hug at the end of the meeting and the comfort of knowing that they are in good hands. So what kind of law do I practice? I still don’t know how to answer that question in 30 seconds, but if you have time for another cup of coffee, I’ll tell you all about it.