Monday, December 2, 2013

A student's perspective on NALI--Part 2

3L Nerissa Irizarry reports on her experiences at this year's NALI conference in Washington, DC (Part 2 of a series)....

The 2013 National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys conference held a session entitled “Making Your Office and Beyond Accessible to Your Clients With Intentional ‘Elder Friendly’ Design.” The session’s presenters were Professor Rebecca Morgan, Professor Roberta Flowers, both currently at Stetson University College of Law, and John E. Wittman from Geier Brown Renfrow Architects, LLC. The discussion that ensued was tremendously practical. The presenters sought to demonstrate, with assistance from the audience, the unique needs presented when creating an office that is welcoming to older clients. In addition to the distinctive interactive nature of this session, the presenters highlighted the intersectionality that is inherent in an elder law practice by including an architect in the discussion. Throughout the conversation, presenters and audience members commented on the ways in which design wishes and legal concerns coalesced, not always harmoniously, in the office planning process. For example, municipal regulations can pose a problem for the considerate elder law attorney who wants to install signage that is not consistent with local requirements. Mr. Wittman, NAELA’s featured architect, paid special attention to aesthetically appeasing as well as functional features of a welcoming elder law office. For instance, there was much attention paid to colors that contrasted, but did not clash, as well as light that was illuminative and diffused. The idea was to have an appealing office that was not harsh to the eyes of an older or (dis)abled client. The presenters enhanced the quality of their presentation by including pictures of elder law offices from around the country. These visuals invoked lots of conversation and comments from the audience. Overall, the interactive, practical aspects of this session blended fun into an educational, professional conference.

The overall atmosphere of the 2013 NAELA conference can be summed up in two words: inviting fun! As a first time attendee, who ventured to the conference knowing absolutely no one, I expected my social interactions to be at least slightly awkward. I was pleasantly surprised to have had exactly the opposite experience. Nearly everyone I interacted with was not only welcoming, but inviting. I was asked about my interests, passion, and future goals in the field of elder law. I spoke with attorneys who encouraged my induction into the field, as well as offered their moral support for any stumbles along the way. The interactions with elder law attorneys stood out as the outstanding aspect of the conference. In fact, one attendee (Ruth Ratzlaff) handed me her card and told me to call her if I ever needed a cheerleader. I will be sure to remember her when I am spending my summer tediously studying for admission to the California Bar.

The sessions were digestible, and that characteristic is particularly important for new and soon-to- be attorneys like myself. I especially enjoyed the interactive atmosphere within the sessions. As attendees, we did not sit still for too long before we were asked to participate in the conversation. The presentations truly felt like conversations. From the venue to the environment, the 2013 NAELA conference created an ambiance that was engaging and convivial to attendees.

                    --Nerissa Irizarray, J.D. expected, William Mitchell College of Law, May 2014.

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