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September 01, 2012

The Post-Election Special: 2012 National Aging and Law Institute

David Godfrey

On November 8–10, over 400 people participated in the 2012 National Aging and Law Institute (NALI) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC. This year’s conference theme was the Post-Election Special, focusing on the impact of the 2012 election on issues in law and aging. Despite some close races and recounts, the outcome was certain enough by the Thursday afternoon opening session for the panel of experts to discuss the likely impact.

The opening general session panel was packed with political and policy analysts: Thomas J. Downey, Chairman of the Downey McGrath Group, Inc., a governmental affairs consulting group; Ms. Nancy A. LeaMond, Executive Vice President for Social Impact at AARP; Paul Johnson CEO of Kglobal a public affairs and public policy agency; and Mr. David Wessell, Bureau Chief and economics editor for the Wall Street Journal. The general session was facilitated by Brian Lindberg, public policy specialist for NAELA, and Jennifer VanderVeen, a private practitioner and co-chair of the 2012 NALI.

The panelists agreed that the outcome of the election marked a shift in voter demographics with racial and ethnic minorities, women, and older voters constituting a larger proportion of the active electorate. Congress faces many ongoing challenges in the coming year. The increase in the Democrat majority in the Senate is meaningful, but still not large enough to control debate without bi-partisan agreement. While smaller, the Republican majority in the House will continue to require significant bi-partisan agreement to move bills through Congress. Several panelists agreed that the best hope for meaningful legislation is a healthy fear that another "do-nothing–deadlocked" Congress could result in members losing seats in the midterm election of 2016. With significant issues, including the deficit and "fiscal cliff," to resolve, the coming Congress promises to be eventful. David Wessell suggested that reform of Medicare and Social Security are essential to resolving the issues.

The National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys awarded the first annual Charles P. Sabatino Award for Excellence in Public Policy, to our own Charlie Sabatino, Director of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging. The award recognizes Charlie’s decades of work on policy issues in law and aging. He has come to be a trusted source for information and a highly valued advocate for the needs of older persons (I would say older Americans, but Charlie is also working on international human rights of older persons.). The award was a complete surprise and left Charlie nearly speechless.

The agenda for this year contained 29 break-out sessions on a wide array of issues in law and aging including elder abuse, guardianship, health care, special needs planning, legal service development and delivery, and legal ethics. Six general sessions covered topics ranging from the outcome of the election, elder abuse, abusive marketing practices, and legal ethics. The conference featured four pre- or post-conference intensive sessions on Practice Management/Practice Development, the Advanced Elder Law Review, a Consumer Law Intensive, and a VA Attorney Accreditation workshop. About 100 speakers volunteered their time and expertise to make the conference possible.

It was my pleasure this year to co-chair the National Aging and Law Institute with Jennifer VanderVeen, a private practitioner in Indiana and Michigan. I want to thank the members of the planning committee: Thomas Begley III, Stu Cohen, Patty Dudek, Shoshanna Ehrlich, Gregory French, Howard Krooks, Penny Hommel, Becky Morgan, and "Chip" Chiplin. The committee was assisted by the invaluable members of the NAELA staff: Peter Wacht, Pam Yanni, Roger Naoroji, Kirsten Brown Simpson, Amy Seaton, and Brian Lindberg. We started work on organizing the conference about one year ago. The committee, staff, and volunteers gave tirelessly, attending dozens of conference calls and exchanging well over 1,000 email messages. It was a pleasure working with such a great group of professionals; everyone shaped the final program in some way.

This is the second year for the National Aging and Law Institute (NALI). NALI continues the tradition of a national conference on law and aging dating back into the 1980s, starting with the Joint Conference on Law and Aging, evolving into the National Aging and Law Conference, and then merging with the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Advanced Fall Institute to form the National Aging and Law Institute. NALI is a major project with a budget of over $200,000; bringing the project in on time and on budget is a challenge. Planning is underway for the 2013 NALI, to be held November 7–9, once again at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC.


David Godfrey

About the Author: David Godfrey is a Senior Attorney at the ABA Commission on Law and Aging.