Aspirational Standards

The elder and special needs law practice is unique. It often involves a person whose health and mental condition requires special care, attention, and protection because he or she may have a memory, mobility, other disabling impairment, chronic condition, or other illness. Supporting its members to negotiate and protect these clients, the NAELA Aspirational Standards for the Practice of Elder and Special Needs Law Attorneys was created to serve as a source for guidance. Elder and special needs law attorneys are, of course, bound by their state’s Rules of Professional Conduct. But the legal affairs of this particular group of individuals can be more complex and additional consideration should be given in meeting the needs of these clients.

Given the dynamic and evolving nature of elder and special needs law, attorneys 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 and special needs law attorneys often will represent clients who have diminished capacity. Family members and other persons with fiduciary responsibilities also may be involved. The client-attorney relationship in elder 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 attorneys in other areas of law. These Standards are designed to assist attorneys provide high-quality counsel, advocacy, and guidance to clients in this unique and specialized area of law.

These Aspirational Standards:

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

This second edition of the Aspirational Standards is the product of three years of study and deliberation by NAELA’s Professionalism and Ethics Committee.  

Please note: NAELA does not have disciplinary authority over any attorney in good standing.  
If you are seeking information on issuing a formal ethics complaint against an attorney, please visit the ABA website for more information.

Read more about NAELA's Aspirational Standards.

NAELA members and prospective members: for more information please access the Aspirational Standards Member Page.

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