A Brave New World Awaits: The Elder and Special Needs Law Practice of the Future

A Brave New World Awaits: The Elder and Special Needs Law Practice of the Future

By Thomas Caffrey and Mary WanderPolo, CELA, CAP |

This Emerging Issues Analysis examines the elder & special needs law practice of the future amid evolving technological developments. While these developments may result in increased productivity, added security measures are needed for protection from cyber crime. The authors' practice vision includes differences in elder & special needs clients, new practice areas emerging while others disappear, and other changes impacting elder and special needs attorneys overall. They write: 

“Albert Einstein was quoted as saying ‘I never think of the future, it comes soon enough.’ That is certainly how it feels these days. Progress moves so quickly that just catching up is difficult, staying on top of trends even more so, and keeping ahead nearly impossible. Over the past 25 years we have all become accustomed to the use of digital technology in our practice of law. In 1988, the average lawyer practiced with a legal pad, some pens, an electric typewriter, a copier, and maybe some form of tape dictation device. The average lawyer advertised in the phone book and, perhaps, the local newspaper.

“Today it is the odd attorney who does not have a computer, laser printer, scanner, cell phone, portable personal device (e.g., iPhone, Blackberry, iPad) to assist in meeting the needs of the client. And what attorney does not have an email address, website, and share information over a Listserv? Thomas Friedman argued, in his book, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, that the electronic revolution has ‘flattened the earth,’ leveling the economic playing field in ways that empower individuals and small firms to compete globally. There is certainly strong evidence to support Friedman's thesis when you look at the dramatic changes that have occurred in law practice in the past 25 years.

“While the laws Elder and Special Needs Law attorneys work with are constantly changing, the pace of change in the law has been far surpassed by the pace of changes in technology that allow us to find, process, analyze, and apply legal information. In 1985, most law firms, and even sole practitioners, had legal libraries, today many do not even subscribe to a paid on line legal research site, because so much of the material is available on the Internet for free.

“One of NAELA's innovations for its members over the past 25 years was the NAELA Listserv, which allowed members in solo or small firm practices to benefit from the knowledge of other NAELA members across the country. This turned many solos into members of a large, national Elder and Special Needs Law firm, at least in regards to research and discussion of issues arising in their cases.”

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