Tips from The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys (AFELA.ORG)
The Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys would like to offer some guidance to make sure that senior citizens and their loved ones hire an effective, ethical elder law attorney.
- Examine the qualifications of the attorney before contacting them. It may be helpful to review the law firm’s website and ask others you trust to provide a recommendation to a trusted attorney, if possible.
- Contact the attorney’s firm and request their qualifications in writing. This request should be honored by the firm without hesitation.
- Review the Florida Bar’s website (www.flabar.org) to see whether there has been any disciplinary history against the attorney you are considering. The bar reports an attorney’s disciplinary history for a period of ten years.
- Ask whether the attorney has a consultation fee. However, it is important to note that most elder law attorneys do charge such a fee, while others, like personal injury attorneys, do not.
- Make sure your representation is clearly set forth in writing with a signed retainer agreement. This should describe the services the attorney will and will not do. It should also include a fee and provisions for additional fees, if any. The retainer agreement will also tell you whether any upfront fee is required and to what extent any portion of the fee is refundable.
- Don’t forget that you can get a second opinion at any time if you do not have a good feeling about the job your attorney is doing. Remember that the attorney works for you. After all, if you would get a second opinion for your medical health, why not for your legal health? Organizations like ours can provide you the names of other qualified attorneys in your area at no cost, at www.afela.org.
- You have a right to complain to the Florida Bar. If you suspect that your attorney has acted unethically or if you are dissatisfied and want to file a complaint, you can contact the local professionalism panels which are set up across the state. The Bar has each judicial circuit’s contact information. You can also contact the Bar’s Attorney Consumer Assistance Program toll-free (866-352-0707).
Following the above steps will help ensure that the seniors you love receive the quality legal services they seek during a difficult and vulnerable period of their lives. Emma Hemness is president, Academy of Florida Elder Law Attorneys, Tallahassee.