Elder Law Programs

A Message from Director Barry Kozak

Barry Kozak

Welcome to The John Marshall Law School's Elder Law Programs. We offer a curriculum tailored to students who need to be practice ready upon graduation, as well as continuing education programs for attorneys who need to stay current on planning and litigation techniques for their elderly clients, and academic symposia for scholars to discuss their research and help form public policy aimed at protecting the independence and dignity of elderly individuals. We also serve as a resource center for many John Marshall projects, like our Pro Bono Program, our Fair Housing and Veterans Clinics, and the Sino-American Research Center for an Aging Population. Our faculty and Advisory Board represent a multi-disciplinary and diverse group of nationally renowned advocates for the elderly, and our alums continue to give back to the programs in many different ways.

Elder law attorneys find it rewarding to advocate for a generally under-served portion of the population, and some graduates use their own backgrounds to find a specific niche – one attorney who speaks Polish became an instant success when he opened his elder law practice in a Polish-speaking neighborhood of Chicago, an openly gay attorney developed a lucrative practice by attracting aging gay and lesbian clients, another attorney whose father was a veteran wound up specializing in securing long-term care benefits for her father's friends who were disabled during service, and still another attorney used her special position of trust at her local church as the means to attract and assist aging congregants. But not all graduates start their own practices – many find associate positions at elder law, estate planning, real estate or litigation law firms; some find positions at state or local government public guardian offices, courts, state’s attorney’s offices, and at regulatory and administrative agencies; some find in-house counsel positions in corporations and health services providers, and some find public policy positions at non-profit, religious, and think tank organizations.

The great news for you is that the practice of elder law is in its infancy, and you can use John Marshall's JD Certificate in Elder Law to blaze your own career path and make your own contributions to the public policy regarding our aging population.

Remember, your parents and/or grandparents are probably part of today’s elderly population (age 65 or over), and you, your spouse, your siblings, your friends and your colleagues will be part of that group by 2050, when the elderly are estimated to comprise more than 20% of the entire US population.

Here are just some of the issues that will need to be addressed by attorneys specially trained in elder law and policy over the next few decades:

  • How will any individual’s retirement be financed (especially when a large portion of the elderly are living below the poverty level and some question the sustainability of Social Security retirement benefits, Medicare medical benefits and Medicaid long-term care benefits)?
  • How will the labor force evolve to accommodate older employees (currently there are about 4 under-age-65 workers for every 1 over-age-65 worker, but is projected to be about 3 to 1 by 2050)?
  • How can individuals live in age-friendly houses and apartments within the community (The Villages, Florida — home to a large retirement community — was the nation's fastest growing metro area from 2012 to 2013)?
  • How will medical and long-term care be delivered to the elderly (whether they live in institutions, such as prisons and nursing homes, or in the community; whether they are citizens or undocumented immigrants; whether they have contributed payroll taxes or never participated in the regulated work force; and, whether they are veterans who have served the nation)?
  • How will the elderly be protected from abuse and financial exploitation, as well as from ageism and unlawful age discrimination (the first official autonomous elder law court in the nation began to operate in 2014 right here in Chicago through the Circuit Court of Cook County)?
  • How will guardians or named agents make decisions over the more vulnerable elderly individuals in the most prudent, efficient, and fiduciarily sound manner (which demands great counseling and communication skills)?

The best elder law attorneys are competent attorneys who practice law, but who also work well with other elder care professionals, including psychologists, social workers, doctors and geriatric nurses, occupational therapists, and care givers.

Regardless of your college major, and regardless of why you enrolled in law school, if you have a compassion for people in their later stages of life and you want to be their advocate, counselor and attorney, then you should explore the elder law curriculum offered here at The John Marshall Law School.

Please feel free to contact me or any of our associate deans to discuss our elder law curriculum and the skills that will make you practice ready upon graduation.

Barry Kozak
Director, Elder Law Programs