What is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA)?
A quick glance through the “attorneys” section of the yellow pages or one of the many internet directories will reveal that most attorneys specialize in certain fields of law. With the aging baby boom and a slump in some other specialties such as real estate, more attorneys are looking to elder law as an area of practice. So how can you, as a consumer, know whether an attorney has deep expertise in the area or if they are a newcomer to the field?
The National Elder Law Foundation offers a certification for elder law and special needs practitioners to reflect their specialized knowledge and experience. The title, Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), identifies an attorney who has completed the requirements for the NELF certification and passed a written examination. The American Bar Association (ABA) accredits specialty certification programs including the CELA designation to ensure it meets standards for reliably recognizing experienced legal specialists.
The CELA certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law attorneys. There are only approximately 450 CELAs in the United States and less than 50 in all of New Jersey. Compare that to the approximately 1500 certified matrimonial lawyers in the state.
Choosing a CELA means that you can be sure your attorney has:
(1) focused at least half of their practice in the specialty for three of the last five years,
(2) demonstrated “substantial involvement” by handling a minimum number of cases across seven subspecialties of elder law,
(3) passed a rigorous examination (less than 50% recent pass rate), and
(4) undergone a peer review.
Shana Siegel, Esq., CELA has attained this certification and subsequently has been a grader for the CELA exam.