The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) – the only organization approved by the American Bar Association to offer certification in the area of elder law – has announced that M. BRIGID FERNANDEZ of Martha C. Brown and Associates, LLC has successfully completed its examination leading to such certification.
Certification in elder law – one of the fastest growing fields in the legal profession – will provide a measure of assurance to the public that the attorney has an in-depth working knowledge of the legal issues that impact the elderly.
M. BRIGID FERNANDEZ, of Martha C. Brown & Associates, LLC in St. Louis, MO is now a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). Ms. Fernandez has practiced elder law for 8 years and focuses her practice on Estate Planning, Life Care Planning, MO HealthNet Benefits (formerly Medicaid), Special Needs Planning, Guardianship/Conservatorship Estates, Probate, Long Term Care Planning, Tort Settlement Assistance and Veterans Benefits. Ms. Fernandez received her J.D. from Saint Louis University School of Law and also has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree of Social Work from the University of Missouri – Columbia. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Civil Mediator and a Veterans Administration Accredited Attorney.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS A CELA?
When you look for an attorney to help you with a special needs or elder law issue, you should look first at Certified Elder Law Attorneys near you. Why? Because they have demonstrated that they understand your legal problems, and they can help you.
The Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification has frequently been referred to as the “gold standard” for special needs and elder law practitioners. This reflects the hard work and proof required before an attorney can proudly proclaim that he or she holds the valued designation. 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.
Before an attorney can be certified, an applicant must:
1. 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;
2. Must have participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the preceding three years;
3. Study for, take, and pass a rigorous day-long written examination. Recent pass rates have been below 50% – and that is of applicants who have already met the experience criteria;
4. Demonstrate “substantial involvement” in special needs and elder law practice, by demonstrating a minimum number of individual cases, spread across a number of different categories making up the “elder law” definition; and
5. 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. They must be recommended by at least 5 other practicing CELA attorneys.
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 – it is your surest method of independently confirming that he/she is more than just qualified. At Martha C. Brown & Associates, we are proud of the fact that we have two CELAs – Martha C. Brown, who earned her certification in 2000, and now, newly-certified M. Brigid Fernandez.
When looking for an attorney, please call us at 314/962-0186. After all, you deserve the best legal representation available.