I was the first woman hired by a big, downtown law firm. I wanted to work in litigation, and I don’t believe that I had ever heard the words “glass ceiling.”
Along the way, I had two daughters, my first one as a third-year law student, and the second one as an associate in a law firm. By the time my girls were seven and four, I was a single mom.
For a long, long time I loved litigation. I couldn’t believe people would pay me to play in this arena.
Along the way, I learned some incredible life lessons. I learned how intimidating it is to be really nice and warm to other people. I learned that if you pretend to know what you are doing for long enough, you eventually WILL know what you are doing. I learned that being ethical and caring to EVERYONE is the foundation for business success.
But let’s face it, single moms don’t get a mid-life crisis or even the thought of changing their job focus. As Abraham Lincoln said: “People are just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” So I was very happy in my chosen specialty and didn’t give much thought to changing it.
In 2007, however, I married my husband (giving hope to all my single female friends). He is (without gushing too much) an awesome companion and source of support.
Suddenly, I picked up my head and said: “You know, litigation is kind of stressful.” At the same time, the type of litigation for which I had become best known, defense of employment cases, left the big law firms and went to boutique law firms and often to insurance defense lawyers. It was time for a change.
I had been doing some of the litigation parts of Elder Law for a long time. I had participated in litigation over conservatorships as well as will contests and other probate litigation.
At the end of 2007, my mother died with dementia. In the years leading up to her death, my family and I could have used a lawyer to help her plan for many end-of-life issues. And she was one of the lucky ones, with good care and financial options.
In the past five years, I finally became acquainted with all of the aspects of Elder Law and with many of the good people who practice law in this area and who provide other services to seniors.
What finally decided me and sent me on the very steep learning curve that is Elder Law, however, was the realization that there is tremendous legal need in the community of seniors and their families. Most seniors don’t realize that Medicare will not pay for long term care. Many families haven’t taken care of the most basic planning for their futures.
And finally, there was the first couple I helped, let’s call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Mrs. Smith had been diagnosed with dementia nearly five years before they came to my office. Her dementia was so advanced that she could no longer even sign her name to documents. While she sat in my office with her husband for an hour, though, she looked at him three times and said: “You are so cute and I love you so much.” She died within six months of her dementia.
That’s when I decided that I had met the type of people whose legal needs I want to serve.