Elder Law Attorney Interview Questions
For those who cannot work with Solkoff Legal, P.A., here are some questions to assist you in selecting the right Elder Law Attorney. Print these out and bring them with you as you interview the attorney. They are set forth in no particular order. Remember that it is perfectly appropriate to ask these questions. If the attorney seems offended, that is your cue to leave.
- Are you Board Certified as a specialist in Elder Law by the State Bar Association? Note that some states do not have board certification. For those that do, board certification is a stamp of quality assurance. If the state does not have board certification, ask if the lawyer is certified by the National Elder Law Foundation.
- Are all of the documents and all of the needed advice and services included in the quoted fee? What is not included in the fee? If billing is hourly, will I have to pay every time I have a question? Is every document priced separately?
- [If planning for Medicaid or other public benefits] What if I am denied eligibility for Medicaid, etc? Will there be additional fees for appeals and if so, what are those fees? Have you handled any Medicaid appeals? How many? How many of your own clients have been denied eligibility for Medicaid?
- Is the attorney a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA)? Membership in NAELA is open to any lawyer so membership in and of itself does not mean that the lawyer has any special skills, experience or training but every lawyer that does is a member. See www.naela.org.
- Does the attorney get paid from any source other than the client? Does the attorney get paid by insurance companies or take a commission as a result of a sale of different products the attorney may advise his or her clients to purchase?
- [If applying for any programs of assistance] Does this firm have dedicated staff to handle the application process? What is my role in the application process? If staff is handling any part of my case, what is the qualification of those staff persons?
- Have you ever been sued for malpractice?
- Have you ever been the subject of a Bar complaint? Note that some State Bar Associations will give you this information just by your calling them.
- Can the attorney assist you in planning for Veteran’s Benefits as well as for Medicaid Benefits?
- Does the law firm outsource application services or other aspects of the representation to persons outside of the firm and who are therefore beyond the supervision of the firm and beyond the insurance coverage of the firm?
- Will the attorney make house calls as necessary?
- Is the attorney a member of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC)? ACTEC membership is available by invitation only and requires a strict vetting process. ACTEC attorneys are widely considered to among the highest qualified in the country. See www.actec.org.
- Has the attorney published work in professional journals or law books on the subject matter of import to you?
- Has the attorney held positions of leadership in the field of Elder Law? Elder Law Attorneys know who is reliable and who is not. Find the attorneys who lead the organizations and you will almost always find a top-shelf specimen.
- How much does the firm spend on advertising? If the firm relies heavily upon newspaper, radio or other advertising, you have less assurance than from a firm which must constantly impress its referral sources as its primary source of business.
Note that not every attorney needs to meet every criteria to be the right attorney for you. These questions are our opinion of important qualities in an Elder Law Attorney, but there are other intangible qualities that matter as well. One of the most important is your sense of the attorney’s character, judgment and communication ability. You can have the best lawyer in the world but if he cannot make himself understood, it might not matter.
One more VERY important point: You are worth it and yes, your selection of attorney will matter. You must use your skills, intuition and advice of others to find the right Elder Law Attorney for you.
The “right” Elder Law Attorney for you does not mean it has to be the “best” Elder Law Attorney, but why not?! People have a tendancy to underestimate the importance of their choice of lawyer. It is far too easy to pick a lower priced lawyer and/or one who is quicker to have an available appointment. This decision though can have an enormous impact on outcome. Do not base your decision on thoughts like: “My case is simple. I do not need a fancy lawyer” or “I am not that rich. I do not need a lawyer like that.”
It is not always the case, but if the lawyer is very busy and you must wait to get an appointment, that is a very good sign. There is a reason the attorney is in demand. If they seem to be waiting by the phone for your call, that should give you pause. Busy lawyers are busy for a reason. If they are busy, that does not necessarily mean they are hard to reach. For non-clients that may be the case but for an attorney to stay successful and busy, the attorney must earn a reputation for taking care of his or her clients.
To learn about the background and expertise of the lawyers of Solkoff Legal, P.A., click here. The Internet gives you great tools to help find the right Elder Law Attorney. Go to www.naela.org, www.actec.org to view their membership rosters and go to www.thomsonwest.com to see who other lawyers look up to as the lawyers to write the book on the subject.