November 11, 2020

Highlights From the Virtual 2020 National Aging and Law Conference

The pdf for the issue in which this article appears is available for download: Bifocal, Vol. 42, Issue 2.

The 2020 National Aging and Law Conference (NALC) drew the largest audience in the seven years that the ABA has hosted the program with 340 registered attendees.  We had participants from 45 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Canada.  While we missed the opportunity to spend time with old friends and make new ones, the virtual gathering allowed us to deliver information and training on critically important issues without attendees needing to travel.    

NALC kicked off with a session on challenges and opportunities with the title: 2020: Lessons Learned, Visions for the Future. The speakers explored the challenges faced by older adults in 2020, then talked about the transition by attorneys and other service providers to virtual services, virtual outreach and training, and supporting a virtual workplace.  The second session, Ethics of Representing Clients with Diminished Capacity, explored issues in capacity and the ethical obligations of working with a client with diminished capacity.  This was followed by, The Impact of Secondary Trauma on Lawyers. This session explored the stress of working with clients who have experienced trauma, and clients in crisis.  The session offered insight into recognizing secondary trauma, and strategies for balancing work and personal wellness. This session was especially timely with everything that has happened this year. 

The second day was opened by the ever-popular Lightning Round, keynoted by Lance Robertson, Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Aging at the United States Administration for Community Living.  Lance was followed by 15 speakers on a wide array of topics.  The closing session was an update on Medicare and Medicaid with a focus on changes in response to COVID-19. 

Two-time blocks were set aside on Friday afternoon for informal networking sessions hosted by seven groups. In addition, ACL hosted virtual office hours on Wednesday afternoon, inviting attendees to stop by and chat.  The goal of the networking was to replace the experience of visiting the exhibit hall and stopping to visit at various tables.  The sessions were well attended, and the feedback from attendees asked us to offer more opportunities like this. Virtual networking was a first, really an experiment. 

NALC was made possible by generous financial support from The Borchard Foundation Center on Law and Aging, Camilla McRory Attorney at Law, The AARP Foundation, and the ABA Section of Real Property Probate Trust and Estate Law.  Without sponsors the conference would not have been financially viable.  Please join me in offering special thanks to the sponsors. 

We started off planning for this year with a theme of Vision 2020, having no idea how the vision would change. In 2020 hindsight, the program we presented was very different from our original vision. We hope that the program helped with some of the emerging and pressing issues of 2020.

I offer special thanks to the NALC planning committee of 27 volunteers, from a couple of dozen entities. The committee reviewed dozens of proposals and was nearing a final agenda, when we started over to plan a virtual conference.  I thank everyone who submitted proposals to speak at NALC this year, many of which landed on the cutting room floor with the shift to virtual.  2020 has certainly been a year of changes and new opportunities. 

National Aging and Law Conference will be back for 2021.  We have not made a firm decision on in-person or virtual for next year.  One way or the other we will start planning in early 2021, and let you know what we are planning.  Watch this space in BIFOCAL, follow NALC on Twitter and subscribe to Elderbar on ABA Connect for breaking news.  We want to avoid planning a conference, and then converting it to a different format. We do hope that you will join us next year.    

David Godfrey, JD

Senior Attorney, ABA Commission on Law and Aging

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