Why You Need a Certified Elder Law Attorney?

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CELA is an acronym or abbreviation which stands for a Certified Elder Law Attorney having received the certification from the National Elder Law Foundation. The National Elder Law Foundation (“NELF”) is the only national organization certifying practitioners of elder and special needs law approved and certified by the American Bar Association. * The purpose of the certification program is to identify those lawyers who have the enhanced knowledge, skills, experience, and proficiency to be properly identified to the public as certified elder law attorneys.

The Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification has frequently been referred to as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs practitioners.  This reflects the hard work and proof required before an attorney can proudly proclaim that he or she holds the valued designation.

Preparation for a CELA designation includes several steps and several different types of qualification, all of which are designed to assure that clients receive good legal care. A Certified Elder Law Attorney is more than just an attorney who specializes in the field of elder law. CELAs are committed, through certification, to maintaining and improving their proficiency with continual practice and continuing legal education. Becoming certified in elder law validates a lawyer’s specialty to handle issues that affect senior citizens. A CELA is in a unique position to serve the interests of older, maturing populations by having met comprehensive and strict requirements. Before being certified, an applicant must:

Have practiced law for at least five years, and have focused at least half of their practice in the special needs/elder law field for at least the last three of those years. 

Demonstrate “substantial involvement” in special needs and elder law practice, by demonstrating a minimum number of individual cases, including having handled at least 60 elder law matters with a specified distribution among a number of different categories making up the “elder law” definition, as well as having participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the three years preceding the application.

Study for, take and pass a rigorous, day-long written examination. In prior years, the pass rate has been as low as 14 percent, and that is of applicants who have already met the experience requirements of “substantial involvement” in Elder law. 

Undergo a review by peers and colleagues, focused on the applicant’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning matters.

The Illinois Supreme Court does not recognize certifications of specialties in the practice of law, and a certification is not a requirement to practice law in Illinois*.   What that means is that any attorney licensed to practice law in Illinois can set himself or herself out as an Elder Law Attorney, and many of those who do are highly skilled professionals with extensive knowledge in Elder Law.  The problem for most people is how do you determine which attorney has limited knowledge and experience and which one possesses the skill and experience that you want in the Attorney representing you or your loved one?  If you choose a CELA as your Attorney you can be assured that the CELA is an Attorney who has demonstrated extensive knowledge and skill in special needs and elder law, who has passed a rigorous examination, who maintains continuing legal education and standards of involvement in Elder Law matters, and who has undergone a review by other recognized Elder Law Attorneys, focused on the applicant’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning matters.

There are only a little more than 400 CELAs in the country, so not every community has even one person who has been certified.     Your lawyer should be a CELA as it is your surest method of independently confirming that he or she is more than just qualified. After all, you deserve the best legal representation available. James C. Siebert is one of only 12 Certified Elder Law Attorneys (also known as a “CELA”) in Illinois in 2016.

Client Testimonials  

  • A few years ago I found the correct legal representation, in you Mr. Siebert. You were very honest, fair, understanding and respectable. You are an exceptionally reliable and efficient lawyer. I would never hesitate recommending you Mr. Siebert to my friend and family members

    Geri M.

  • rate Mr. Siebert legal expertise? EXCELLENT What could the Law Office of James C. Siebert have done to improve upon the services provided to you? NOTHING. JAMES SIEBERT IS AN EXCELLENT ATTORNEY, REASONABLE FEES, PROMPT, RELIABLE AND CARING FOR ALL MY NEEDS AND CONCERNS, PLUS VERY HONEST.

    Sandra D.

  • Without question I fully endorse your excellent practice of law. I shall be forever mindful of your very special knowledgeable help at a time in my life when I was drowning in a sea of insurmountable complications. You are to be highly commended for your honest, integrity, understanding, and your compassion.

    Patricia M.

  • I would highly recommend attorney, Mr. James Siebert. I used Mr. Siebert for his expertise on Elder care law...This was very stressful yet he managed to make this as painless as possible. I felt very comfortable and confident in his services and he definitely is an expert in his field. I would with confidence highly recommend him.

    Madelin P.

  • I was excited to have such an honest and well versed attorney with your inter personal skills and expertise. I needed an elder law attorney who was proficient, honest and who could work with the bureaucrats involved with the Medicaid process. I can honestly say that I was so glad I met with and hired you.

    Sandra D.

NELF Certified Elder Law Attorney
AV Rating 2017

National Academy of Elder Law Attorney Member
James C Siebert named 2018 Leading Lawyer, top 5% lawyers in Illinois