WHAT IS A CERTIFIED ELDER LAW ATTORNEY?
A Certified Elder Law Attorney (“CELA”) is a nationally recognized expert in the field of Elder Law and Estate Planning.
An attorney may achieve CELA status only by meeting rigorous qualifications for certification in Elder Law by the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF). The qualifications are summarized below:
A CELA must have spent an average of at least 16 hours per week practicing elder law during the three years preceding their application. In addition, Certified Elder Law Attorneys must have handled at least 60 elder law matters during those three years with a specified distribution among specific legal areas defined by the Foundation.
- Attorneys Dan Surprenant and Michelle Beneski devoted their law practices exclusively to elder law and estate planning and have handled hundreds of elder law and estate planning matters.
Continuing Legal Education
A CELA must have participated in at least 45 hours of continuing legal education in elder law during the preceding three years.
- Attorneys Dan Surprenant and Michelle Beneski participate in dozens of hours of continuing legal education in elder law every year. They are frequent lecturers, television commentators and writers on various elder law subjects.
Peer Review/Professional References
A CELA must be favorably evaluated by five elder law attorney specialists.
- Beyond satisfying the peer review requirements, Attorney Michelle Beneski was named in 2011 and 2012 to Boston Magazine’s list of SuperLawyers®. This distinction is achieved by only 5% of Massachusetts attorneys.
- Beyond satisfying the peer review requirements, Attorney Dan Surprenant is the President-Elect (2014) of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, a past member of the Board of Directors and the 2014 Member of the Year of that organization.
A CELA must pass a full day certification examination.
- Attorneys Michelle Beneski and Dan Surprenant have both passed the rigorous, national CELA examination. Historically, only a distinguished minority of Elder Law Attorneys have taken and passed the CELA exam.
- Dan passed the Massachusetts Bar Exam on his first attempt in 1996.
- Michelle passed the Massachusetts Bar Exam on her first attempt in 1991.
A CELA must be licensed to practice law in at least one state.
- Attorneys Michelle Beneski and Dan Surprenant are licensed to practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
A CELA must have practiced law during the five years preceding their application and must still be practicing law.
- Attorney Dan Surprenant has practiced law since 1996.
- Attorney Michelle Beneski has practiced law since 1991.
CELA must be members in good standing of the state bars where they are licensed.
- Attorneys Dan Surprenant and Michelle Beneski are both members in good standing of the Massachusetts Bar Association, as well as the Bristol County Bar Association and the New Bedford Bar Association. Attorney Surprenant is a past member of the Board of Delegates for the Massachusetts Bar Association and a Past President of the Bristol County Bar Association.
The National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) is the only national organization accredited by the American Bar Association to certify attorneys in Elder Law. NELF is a private organization, whose standards for certification are not regulated by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.