Practicing Law Requires Practice

By H. Lalla Shishkevish posted 08-31-2017 16:42


I’ve talked to many Michigan lawyers about how they developed their skills. Most start by telling me a story about how they watched and learned from more experienced lawyers. Many remember how much they learned from the mistakes they made. But, today, opportunities to watch and learn are few, and getting away from the office has become ever more difficult.

ICLE’s new Elder Law Certificate Program (ELCP) lets lawyers practice fundamental skills with simulated but realistic scenarios and clients. It’s practical, effective, engaging, and entirely online. More than 40 lawyers enthusiastically offered their expertise to develop scenarios and exercises that reflect and address typical situations, problems, and pitfalls in elder law.

Many ELCP lessons begin with demonstrations. They show ways to handle difficult conversations with clients and family members, maximize an elderly client’s capacity, handle guardianship hearings, or help clients achieve Medicaid eligibility.

The ELCP also contains drafting exercises with sample agreements and tips, including a lesson on drafting a family-provided caregiver contract. First, a demonstration shows an expert gathering information to draft an agreement that meets the client’s needs. Then, the drafting exercise introduces a new client and requires amending the agreement to meet this new client’s needs. An expert’s answer and explanation reinforces important drafting skills and techniques.

Another lesson focuses on the complex issues surrounding identifying the client and meeting ethical obligations while establishing the attorney-client relationship. It requires a lawyer to make a series of decisions based on information provided by the older client and her family. Different answers lead to different outcomes. If the decisions don’t lead to the optimal outcome, the lawyer can go back and work through the scenario again or listen to the expert’s explanation of the critical issues and decisions that would lead to the best result.

The ELCP includes practical resources to use in your practice, such as checklists, sample forms, questionnaires, and application packets. The Medicaid Planning Tools Chart and the Income Allowance and Patient Pay Calculation Chart for Medicaid Planning are uniquely useful resources developed specifically for the Government Benefits portion of the ELCP. Everything is targeted to provide exactly what is needed for the critical skills in elder law practice.

The ELCP provides an exciting new way for lawyers to hone their elder law practice skills, at their own pace, at the time and location of their choosing, before facing such issues on behalf of a client. And, best of all, it’s fun to do!