May 30, 2017

Member Spotlight: Deirdre Lok

Deirdre Lok

Deirdre Lok is Assistant Director and General Counsel for The Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in NY, and is Chair of the ABA Senior Lawyer's Division's Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force.

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Tell us a little bit about your career.

I started my legal career as a prosecutor in the Queens County District Attorney's Office, where I focused on prosecuting domestic violence cases. After spending three years at the Queens DA's Office, I moved to Hawaii and accepted a position as a prosecutor. Crazy as it seems, after a couple of years, I moved back to the Northeast's harsh winters. In March of 2008 I accepted a position at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale and have been here ever since.

Is it what you had planned when you started law school?

Not at all. When I began law school I hoped to become an advocate for social justice. I had worked behind the scenes in politics for several years, and thought that it would enhance my ability to make social change if I possessed a law degree. Once in school I realized how interested I was in criminal law and litigation, and my career path took a turn. Now I can look back and see how the two worlds have intertwined perfectly to prepare me for the position I have now.

What has been the highlight of your career?

Getting to know my first elder abuse victim, a man who was the victim of a sweetheart scam. It was my first exposure to the impact of a scam on an older person, seeing the dramatic toll abuse can have on an aging body and the need for professionals from the medical field, the financial industry and the justice system to band together. I was only one of many people who helped this man; but, there were moments where I physically stood in front of him to defend him (I am 4'11" tall), testified in the grand jury against the perpetrator, and held him up when he was crying uncontrollably about losing the person he believed to be the love of his life. Our shelter, the doctor, the hospital, Adult Protective Services, the attorneys and the courts are attributed to saving his life. The small role I played showed me what impact I could have on the remaining years of someone's life, and the need for raising awareness about the magnitude of elder abuse.

If you could go back to the beginning of your legal career, would you have done anything differently?

Frankly, I would not. I am so grateful for all of the unique experiences I have had, both good and bad. Each experience has helped guide my work and paved the way for me to have the happiness I find in the work I am doing now. What advice would you give to someone considering law school today? Go, but do not be afraid to change direction or take risks in your career. You may find the most fulfillment and success in areas you never imagined.

What were the biggest changes you saw in the legal profession over the course of your career?

Technology. When I was in law school, laptops were just becoming something most students had. Now I have to tell my students to put their laptops away to engage in discussion. Email correspondence and communication tracks and holds people accountable, but setting professional life and personal life boundaries has taken on new meaning. At the same time, Orders of Protection can be obtained for home-bound older adults through the use of technology and Skype can be used to give the court access to a person who would otherwise never be a face in the courtroom. Notification of the release of perpetrators from incarceration and immediate responses to older adults in crisis are now more possible.

When did you first become a member of the ABA and why did you decide to join?

I first became a member of the ABA when I was in law school. I joined because I learned about the importance of meeting other attorneys and learning about resources that would help me to develop my legal career.

What has been the highlight of your work with the ABA?

Meeting and having the ability to work with lawyers from across the country, who share similar successes and frustrations discovering elder abuse victims and perpetrators through their legal practice and personal lives.

If you had not become a lawyer, what do you think you would have done?

I would have wanted to become a psychologist, a neurologist or an astronaut.

Deirdre Lok

Deirdre Lok is Assistant Director and General Counsel for The Weinberg Center for Elder Abuse Prevention at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale in NY, and is Chair of the ABA Senior Lawyer's Division's Elder Abuse Prevention Task Force.