VAELA Mentoring Program
VAELA is now offering through NAELA a mentoring program. Since its inception, one of NAELA’s strengths has been the collegial spirit of the members. For years, this has translated into an incredible, if informal, network of practitioners always willing to take another NAELA member’s call to discuss an issue or help think through a dilemma. As NAELA has grown, the organization has refused to lower its standards of substantive knowledge, practice or conduct. Witness the programs now available from basic to advanced, in person or on the Internet. The Mentoring Program is another example of NAELA's commitment to excellence and the continuation of its tradition of collegiality.
A VAELA survey of potential mentee candidates showed they are very interested in seeking advice on professionalism and legal ethics from experienced elder law attorneys, having a person to turn to with a substantive procedural or ethics question, and are in general hoping to enhance their professionalism, productivity and performance.
This is a very exciting time to be a member of VAELA. This unique opportunity to expand the breadth and scope of contact among members can only enhance the services we provide to our clients and communities. One more benefit of VAELA membership!
VAELA Mentor Panel Guidelines
The NAELA Mentor Panel is designed to give guidance to VAELA members who have not had extensive experience in handling certain Elder and Special Needs Law matters, and to provide access to experienced Elder and Special Needs Law attorneys who have volunteered to serve as mentors to those requesting guidance. The panel will try to match a VAELA mentee with a VAELA mentor but if such mentor is not available then the panel may match with a NAELA mentor. The Panel format of mentors provides for more than one mentor in a particular field of practice to offer assistance.
Guidelines for Mentors and Mentees - Etiquette for Mentees
When contacting a mentor, the following courtesies should be observed:
- Do not call collect.
- Identify yourself.
- Have the issues researched and framed in your own mind before calling.
- Ask the mentor for the preferred mode of communication, i.e., email, telephone, etc.
- Be forthcoming as to the reason for your call.
- Respect the mentor’s time and keep your contact as short as possible.
- Do not seek legal advice for yourself as a client.
- Be sure not to refer to the mentor when speaking with clients unless approved in advance by the mentor and hired as co-counsel.
Questions posed to the mentor should be hypothetical in nature. The identities of the parties and matters should be disclosed to the mentor for the sole purpose of resolving possible conflicts of interest. No privity or appearance of privity between the mentor and the mentee or the clients of the mentee should be established.
Guidelines for Mentors and Mentees - Serving as a Mentor
The following are the requirements for a mentor serving in the mentor program
- Five years in practice, with three years practicing elder law, is required for mentor volunteers.
- Mentors are listed by substantive topics/issues and by state. They are also listed by name, telephone number, specialized area(s) of practice, geographic area and court admission as applicable.
- The mentor is to serve as a guide, helping the mentee define the issues and directing the mentee to the applicable reference materials. In addition, the mentor may offer guidance on practice management concerns, professionalism and ethics.
- The mentorship is for a minimum of one year, and can be extended upon mutual agreement.
- An initial face to face meeting between mentor and mentee is recommended but not required.
- Developing a plan at the first meeting is also suggested but not required.
- The mentor should not be expected in most cases to prepare or review documents, meet or speak with clients or incur any costs or expenses.
- If the mentor believes that the mentee cannot handle the matter on his or her own, the mentor should recommend that he or she seek co-counsel or that he or she refer the matter to a more experienced lawyer. The mentor may offer to serve as co-counsel, but this should not be expected by the mentee and is not the purpose of the mentor-mentee relationship.
- The mentor shall keep a record of the number of inquiries she or she receives. This information will assist NAELA in evaluating and making adjustments to the program.
- The mentor’s commitment is open-ended, may continue for as long as the mentor is a member of NAELA and may be terminated by the mentor any time by written notification to the NAELA office.
The nature of Elder Law practice makes it imperative that an attorney understand and analyze the implications and applications of local law and practice before advising clients. Statements of fact and opinion are the responsibility of the mentee/mentor and do not imply an opinion or endorsement on the part of NAELA, VAELA, or the officers or directors of NAELA/VAELA. Opinions and counsel from a mentor should not be used as a substitute for the opinion and judgment of the mentee. NAELA and VAELA disclaim responsibility for the acts and omissions of mentors and by participating in this program mentees agree to hold NAELA and VAELA harmless for the same.