Aspirational Standards – Elder Law

NAELAThe National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) in the US has developed a set of ‘aspirational standards’ for the practice of elder law. Given the dynamic and evolving nature of elder law and special needs law, lawyers practicing in these areas should and often must represent their clients “holistically,” adapting and applying information and insight obtained from a wide range of legal and social disciplines.  When assisting clients with planning or the implementation of plans, elder law and special needs lawyers often will represent clients who have diminished capacity, or lack of capacity.  Family members and other persons with fiduciary responsibilities also may be involved.  The solicitor-client relationship in elder law and special needs law is not always as clear-cut and unambiguous as in other areas of law.  Questions relating to end-of-life planning, self-determination, exploitation, abuse, long-term care planning, best interests, substituted judgment, and, fundamentally,  “who is the client?” present issues not regularly faced by lawyers in other fields. These Standards are designed to assist lawyers to provide high quality counsel, advocacy, and guidance to clients in this unique and specialized area.   These Aspirational Standards:

  • Assist lawyers to navigate the many difficult ethical issues that often arise when representing elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities;
  • Raise the level of professionalism in the practice of elder law and special needs law; and
  • Assist lawyers to effectively meet the needs of their clients.

These aspirational standards were originally developed in 2005, and updated in 2017 after three years of study and deliberation by NAELA’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee.  They are intended to complement any Rules of Professional Conduct. They are available for download from NAELA’s website here:

Aspirational Standards for The Practice of Elder Law and Special Needs Law with Commentaries.

The standards cover the following areas of elder law practice:

  1. THE HOLISTIC APPROACH
  2. CLIENT IDENTIFICATION
  3. ENGAGEMENT AGREEMENTS AND DOCUMENT DRAFTING
  4. CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
  5. CONFIDENTIALITY
  6. COMPETENT AND DILIGENT REPRESENTATION
  7. CLIENT CAPACITY
  8. COMMUNICATION AND ADVOCACY
  9. MARKETING AND ADVERTISING
  10. NON-LEGAL SERVICES
  11. PRO BONO LEGAL REPRESENTATION AND PUBLIC SERVICE

These are intended for American attorneys, so some of this may not be applicable in Canada.  Nonetheless, something to aspire to!