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Elder Law Clinic: Students’ Perspectives

May 1, 2013

Third-year Elder Law Clinic students Carolyn Fakury, Mary Elizabeth Murray, and Katie Redmon, along with Nora Moran, a social work intern from Hunter College, discuss the clinic and what inspired them to become lawyers.

What did you work on in the Elder Law Clinic?

Katie Redmon: We represented people on both sides of contested guardianship petitions when their cases were complex enough to require an attorney. The other exciting thing we did was pilot the Pro Se Guardianship Project, which helps individuals represent themselves in uncontested guardianship proceedings. The Pro Se project is designed to give people legal assistance without actually engaging in representation, in cases where it is unnecessary. This allows us to make the most of scarce resources. Participants generally come to us after they hit a legal roadblock in caring for an adult with diminished capacity. One participant, for instance, wanted to buy a house so her husband could end his four-year stay in a nursing facility. According to the client, the bank would not secure a loan without her husband’s signature. He was in a catatonic state and could neither sign nor appoint a power of attorney. We explored less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship, but there were none. We confirmed that she was able and willing to represent herself at a guardianship hearing. We drafted a detailed petition together, and the participant filed it and proceeded pro se.

From left: Carolyn Fakury ('13), Mary Elizabeth Murray ('13), Professor Joe Rosenberg, Katie Redmon ('13), Nora Moran, and Professor Degna Levister

From left: Carolyn Fakury (’13), Mary Elizabeth Murray (’13), Professor Joe Rosenberg, Katie Redmon (’13), Nora Moran, and Professor Degna Levister

What’s the value of incorporating a social work perspective into a project like this?

Nora Moran: Since we were preparing people to navigate the legal system without a lawyer, my perspective ensured that the guardianship process was explained in a way that kept the client as the focus. Having a social work perspective allowed us to think beyond the immediate legal need and consider life’s other factors that may influence guardianship petitions.

Why did you choose the Elder Law Clinic as your clinic placement?

Mary Elizabeth Murray: I carried immense personal connections with me when I joined the Elder Law Clinic. Immediately before law school and throughout my first year, I cared for my grandmother in her final days. Spending time with my grandparents at hospitals and doctors’ offices opened my eyes to the daily physical, emotional, and societal challenges faced by the elder population.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

Carolyn Fakury: I’ve been told since I was about 7 years old that I would be a good lawyer. I didn’t know what people meant at the time, but as I grew up I found myself taking on the role of advocating for the underdog. It was natural for me to stand up and protect those who seemed to need it the most, and I had no problem being vocal about it.

– Paul Lin

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