NELF - National Elder Law Foundation

NELF - National Elder Law Foundation

Ronald St. Hilaire is the only CELA in Eastern Washington.  Ronald has practiced Elder Law for more than 15 years and has been Certified as an Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation since 2019.  Ronald has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys since 2010, and is the current Chair Elect of the Elder Law Section of the Washington State Bar Association.

The Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) certification is widely recognized as “the gold standard” for elder law and special needs practitioners. This reflects the hard work and commitment required before an attorney can proudly proclaim that they hold the valued designation.

Possessing the CELA certification informs those in your community that your expertise, knowledge, and skills in the practice of elder and special needs law meet the highest qualifications demanded by the National Elder Law Foundation. Adding the CELA designation to your public profile alerts those seeking elder law or special needs legal services that you are capable of providing exceptionally reliable and effective representation. NELF insists that CELAs maintain the highest integrity and engage in continuing legal education to qualify for periodic recertification.

Preparation for a CELA designation includes several steps and several different types of qualification, all of which are designed to assure that clients receive the highest quality legal care. Before being certified, an applicant must:

  • Have practiced law for at least five years and have focused at least half of their practice in the special needs/elder law field for at least the last three of those years.
  • Demonstrate “substantial involvement” in special needs and elder law practice, by demonstrating a minimum number of individual cases, spread across a number of different categories making up the “elder law” definition.
  • Study for, take, and pass a rigorous, day-long written examination. Recent pass rates have been below 50% — and that is of applicants who have already met the experience requirements.
  • Undergo a review focused on the applicant’s reputation for ethical and competent representation in elder law and special needs planning conducted by peers and colleagues, who also must satisfy stringent requirements in the area of elder law practice.

There are over 500 CELAs in the country, but too few for every community to include even one attorney who has been certified.

Your lawyer should be a CELA – it is your surest method of independently confirming that they are more than just competent; they are specialists. After all, you deserve the best legal representation available.

The Supreme Court of Washington does not recognize certification of specialties in the practice of law. Certification is not required to practice law in the State of Washington.

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