Saturday, December 14, 2013
In November, 3 of my students attended the NALI/NAELA meeting in DC. I asked them to write short blog entries about their experiences. This post is by Desiree Toldt, a 3L:
“Ethical Issues of Communicating with Non-Clients: Red Flags and Best Practices”
I was fortunate to attend the breakout session entitled “Ethical Issues of Communicating with Non-Clients” presented by Professor Mary McNeal and Professor Kimberly O’Leary, both professors and Directors of Elder Law Clinics. The facilitators began with a general overview of case law and issues surrounding the maintenance of confidentiality of elderly clients. The remaining time centered on the professors own development of a 15-step protocol system intended to assist elder law attorneys in maintaining confidentiality of their clients. The four main areas of focus for the protocol were “who is the client,” identification of third parties necessary to representation, evaluating possible abuse, and effective communication regarding third party interactions. The professors, in true academic form, distributed five varying scenarios as the larger group broke into five smaller groups. Each group was then assigned a particular scenario to address using the protocol. Each group evaluated the scenario, identified issues, and shared personal experiences in their own practices within the small groups of four to six members. The groups had the opportunity to provide a sample “role-play” to demonstrate how the individual group addressed the issue.
The open forum style of the session created an open discussion of difficult situations such as how to handle suspected abuse, undue influence, confidentiality exposure and protection of the elderly client. While this high level of interaction created some disagreement amongst attendees, it also facilitated a productive, open and honest discussion about the issues that might not otherwise be discussed at the conference. Each group offered a unique perspective from across varying jurisdictions and showed how the 15-step protocol could be adapted to each individual practitioner. The value in the session was not only learning the 15-step protocol system but also most importantly learning from the experiences of every attendee in the room. I felt this was the most unique and beneficial portion of the 2013 NAELA Conference breakout sessions.
---Desiree Toldt, 3L, William Mitchell College of Law