What is a CELA?

CELA is an acronym or abbreviation which stands for a Certified Elder Law Attorney. 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 they hold the valued designation.

Preparation for a CELA designation includes several steps and different types of qualifications, 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 in handling issues that affect senior citizens. A CELA is uniquely positioned to serve the interests of older, maturing populations by having met comprehensive and strict requirements.

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 themselves apart as an Elder Law Attorney. Many of those who do are highly skilled professionals with extensive knowledge in Elder Law.

If you choose a CELA as your attorney, you can be assured that the CELA attorney has demonstrated extensive knowledge and skill in special needs and elder law, has passed a rigorous examination, maintains continuing legal education and standards of involvement in Elder Law matters, and 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 approximately 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 they are more than just qualified.

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