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ALUMNI CONVENING: Emerging Intersections in Elder Law

September 19, 2018

On September 6, 2018, the Office of Alumni Engagement, along with the Elder Law Clinic, held this year’s first Alumni Convening on an emergent issue in New York City.  Stay tuned for more Alumni Convenings in the coming months.


The Hon. Bryanne Hamill ’90, speaks at the rededication of the Jean E. Sherwin seminar room


On September 6, 2018, over 60 alumni, students and faculty convened to celebrate the life of Elder Law Clinic alum Jean E. Sherwin ’90 by discussing recent trends in legal planning and advocacy for immigrants, children, non-Native speakers, and the elderly.  From the time it was founded in 1989 (known then as the Wills Clinic), through the next decade (when it was known as the Law Office Clinic), and up to the present, the Elder Law Clinic has focused on using legal counseling and planning to empower clients to take control of their future and provide for their loved ones.

Jean’s sister and other family members, Jean’s close friend and classmate Hon. Bryanne Hamill ’90, and other members of Jean’s class joined to help us rededicate the Jean E. Sherwin Seminar Room, named in 2001 on the occasion of a gift to the Law School in Jean’s honor. Jean, who was a clinical psychologist working with children in the foster care system, understood well before she came to law school both the power of the law and  that people’s legal issues are almost never resolved in a single visit to court.  For her, as for all of the alums of the Elder Law Clinic, the practice of law in the service of human needs is activated by recognizing that the law provides a framework that permits clients to intentionally plan and shape their futures.

The evening was a celebration of Jean as well as an entire network of alumni working to protect the rights of especially vulnerable populations, focusing on promoting autonomy, empowerment, and dignity for the aging, for those fearing deportation, and for immigrants looking to secure guardianship and custody rights of their children.  This year, the clinic is focused on several key intersections of the law:

  • Race, poverty & social justice
  • Aging, disability, guardianship & decision-making autonomy
  • Immigration, families & guardianship of children
  • Technology, privacy, liberty & the law.

A panel discussion of these areas was led by clinic director and professor Joe Rosenberg ’86, along with two adjunct professors, Julia Hernandez ’12 and Liz Valentin ’01, as well as twelve students, some of whom are members of our part-time evening program rounded out the evening. In fact, this detail is a key area of innovation for the law school; the clinic now meets in the evenings and is part of a progressive shift in experiential learning and its accessibility. Mariana Negron-Quinones, a fourth-year evening student and teaching assistant, spoke about her work with the Planning with Parent Project, which provides know-your-rights trainings for parents, advocates, and legal clinics to advise them how to best assure that families and loved ones are protected from the current immigration policies and their aggressive enforcement.  Both Degna P. Levister, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Enrollment Management, and the Hon. Kristin Booth Glen, University Professor and Dean Emerita, who have also co-taught with Joe, joined the panel.

The assembled group discussed new measures to protect older adults, people with significant disabilities, and families who need assistance with estate planning and lifetime needs. A large part of the conversation focused on how to help immigrant families obtain guardianship to protect their loved ones, and also defended those who should not have their autonomy taken away via an improperly decided guardianship. Through its Article 81 Guardianship Pro Se Project, the Elder Law Clinic provides detailed, step-by-step guides to guardianship proceedings and conducts regular know-your-rights workshops to educate the broader community. In response to the current presidential administration’s disregard for immigrants, the Elder Law Clinic has recently shifted towards preparing families vulnerable to deportation with lifetime and estate planning, including the care and guardianship of minor children.

A huge thanks to everyone who joined us for the evening, especially those moved to celebrate the life and passion of Jean E. Sherwin.


Related Categories: Alumni, Clinic News, Spotlight

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