MBA’s Elder Law, Conversations programs celebrate Law Day

Issue June 2006

The MBA, in addition to launching its Task Force on Diversity speaking program (which sends attorneys into high schools and colleges to talk with students about pursuing legal careers) recognized Law Day on May 1 with two Community Services programs.

Elder Law Education Program

Each May, in celebration of Law Day, attorneys visit local senior centers and councils on aging across Massachusetts as presenters in the Elder Law Education Program. Co-sponsored by the MBA and the Massachusetts chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), the program provides seniors with vital information on legal issues affecting their lives.

This year, senior centers were offered the choice of three presentation topics: “Elder Law Essentials,” “Medicare/Medicaid Changes” and “Real Estate Tax Abatement for Elders.”

For example, Abington attorney George L. Whiting Jr. spoke on “Medicare/Medicaid Changes” to about 15 people at the Abington Council on Aging on May 17.

He talked about three major aspects of this area of law. He spoke about MassHealth which coincides with Medicaid and spoke about the Debt Reduction Act and how that affects people applying for Medicaid. Whiting spoke about the durable power of an attorney and appointing someone that senior citizens can trust to take care of things such as paying bills should they become mentally and/or physically unable to do so. Whiting also spoke on the importance of a health care proxy and advised members of the audience to seek out the advice of an elder law attorney if they had any questions.

In all, 90 attorneys were scheduled to make presentations at 145 senior centers and councils on aging across the state through May and June. Each presenter was provided with presentation materials, which were compiled by NAELA President Michael F. Loring of Loring and Robinson in Scituate.

The MBA wishes to acknowledge all of the attorneys who volunteered their time for this program: Loring and the Massachusetts chapter of NAELA; the MBA’s Probate Section Council, chaired by Frederick L. Nagle Jr., Haverhill; and Robert J. Reddy, Falmouth, for their generous assistance with this year’s program.

Conversations on the Constitution

Throughout the month of May, MBA members volunteered their time as facilitators in the Conversations on the Constitution program in middle school classrooms across Massachusetts.

In the wake of Sept. 11, the American Bar Association developed Conversations on Law & Liberty in Times of Crisis, a program designed to encourage public discussion of complex legal and civic issues facing our nation. Since Sept. 11, the MBA has utilized the Conversations approach in developing other law-related programming. In 2004, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the MBA sent attorneys out to schools to discuss this decision, which brought an end to the legal doctrine of “separate but equal.”

In 2006, in hand with “conversation starters” created by the ABA, volunteers led students through spirited conversations on constitutional issues, such as “Separation of Powers,” “Advice and Consent of the Senate” and “Unreasonable Search and Seizure.”

“I’m very glad that I volunteered to be a facilitator,” said attorney Martha Rush O’Mara of Melrose, who presented to two eighth grade classes at the Beachmont School in Revere. “It was terrific — the kids were awesome!” she said. “They did a great job of covering and discussing the issues.”