(Note: The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: BIFOCAL Vol. 35, Issue 1.)
This fall marks the launch of the Elder Rights Clinic at Brooklyn Law School. The news is timely as more baby boomers enter the 60+ age bracket and the legal needs of older adults continue to expand. By 2030, it is estimated by the Department of City Planning that the borough of Brooklyn alone will have as many as 410,000 residents over the age of 65. Yet today, 53 percent of Brooklyn residents in that same demographic struggle with desperately low incomes.
To address these pressing needs, Brooklyn Law School has collaborated with the Brooklyn Legal Services Elderlaw Project and the Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale to create the new clinic. It is the latest in the Law School’s 30-year history of clinical and externship programs to benefit from close partnerships with community-based organizations.
The Elder Rights Clinic allows for hands-on work across diverse projects and cases. At Brooklyn Legal Services, students will handle eviction cases specific to senior citizens and take on client representation—from case intake through strategic case assessment, motion practice, court appearances, and possibly even hearings or trial. This direct client interaction with the older adult population will build invaluable client-interviewing skills and an ability to assess client capacity. Students may also have the opportunity to identify and intervene in cases of elder abuse, and to evaluate other basic food, housing, and health care needs. The process of advocating for an older adult at an administrative hearing offers another invaluable experience for learning. The ever-changing laws and regulations surrounding Medicaid benefits, health-care and insurance provides an area ripe for students to position themselves on the cutting edge of a practice that most long-time practicing attorneys are learning as well.
The weekly seminar will complement the case and project work by exploring foundational legal concepts and developing necessary skills. Topics will include advance legal planning, older adult benefits, eviction proceedings, and the guardianship process. In addition, students will work on projects assigned through their seminar that focus on older adults’ rights including: attorney-client ethics, privacy rights, consent to sexual activity, and access to justice.
Jane Landry-Reyes, Senior Housing Attorney with Brooklyn Legal Services, is responsible for assigning and supervising caseloads while Deirdre Lok, Assistant Director and General Counsel for the Weinberg Center, is teaching the seminar. Find out more about the Clinic at http://www.brooklaw.edu/academics/curriculum/coursedescriptions/course.aspx?id=L_180.