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My Elder Law Journey

By Slater & Small PLLC


I was fifteen years old when my family migrated to the United States.  Back then my career goal was to become a neurosurgeon.  I was a premed major and never seriously considered law as a career until my junior year in college when, to meet an elective requirement, I reluctantly took international law. Surprisingly, I found myself enjoying reading for class and looking forward to the class discussions.

Upon graduation from Florida International University in 1992, I immediately entered the workforce and put my dreams for a higher education on hold. I worked for several years in the banking industry in several positions starting as an entry level drive through teller and working my way up through various positions to Vice President and Commercial Banking Manger at two major banking institutions.  Then 10 years after graduating from college I decided to return to school and study law.  So here I was with two daughters in elementary school, managing a large commercial bank, attending soccer games, baking cookies for PTA and studying for the LSAT.  At the time I envisioned becoming a corporate law attorney and practicing in the glamourous arena of international banking.

I applied for and was accepted to the accelerated law program at St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami.  It was a scary move, swapping a six-figure salary for student loans.  I traded in my business suits and heels for jeans, sneakers and a roller bag. Little did I know that I would also be giving up sleep and at times my sanity.  My typical day consisted of waking up at the crack of dawn, getting my daughters off to school, then rushing of to class. Then pick up from after care by 6pm, make dinner sit through homework with my daughters, get them to bed by 8:30, and study until midnight.  I also had to fit in girl’s scout meetings, selling cookies, science fair projects, and field trips.  In addition to all this, I managed to work a part time job at my law school as a teaching assistant for torts and legal writing. While at St. Thomas, I met fellow student David Hook, who later went on to become the chair of this section 2015-2016.  He told me about an elder law clinic that he was taking and spoke very highly of the program.  I applied for the Elder Law clinic and interviewed with the then Broward County Administrative Probate Judge, Judge Grossman.  I was accepted into the program and served my internship with Judge Grossman.  I really enjoyed my internship and learned a lot about the field of Elder Law.  I signed up for the Elder Law course offered by my school, which was taught by Enrique Zamora, (who later became the Chair of the Elder Law section 2011-2012).  I found out I was really an elder law nerd when I received the book award that semester for elder law.

Within months of graduating from law school, I hung my own shingle and opened a general law practice.  I practiced elder law, family law, criminal law, immigration law, personal injury, and contracts law. My goal was always to have a full-time elder law practice but until I could build up a large enough case load, I kept the lights on with cases that walked through the door.  To realize my dream as a full time elder law practice, I started to attend every CLE put on by the Elder Law Section and immersed myself in elder law books written by the Father of elder law, the late great Jerome Solkoff.  To gain experience, I wrote to all the Broward Probate Judges and ask to be appointed on pro bono cases.  I also joined the Broward Bar Association low cost panel and signed up with legal insurance carriers for elder law cases.

I also started to attend the Elder Law Section Executive Council meetings where I would sit in the back of the room and quietly observe.  I remember feeling intimidated by how brilliant these elder law attorneys were and being very impressed by the complex issues they dealt with.  Slowly I would start volunteering to work on projects and to join committees to get to know the leadership of the elder law section.  I vividly remember at one such Executive Council Meeting, I timidly raised my hand and volunteered to be on the newly formed website committee.  Fortunately for me, the Elder Law section is a very nurturing one.  People started to take note of the work I was doing and I got to know members from across the state who would become mentors.  I still recall how pleased I was to learn of my appointment to become the CLE Chair of the section, a position I held for many years and probably my favorite position (except for Section Chair). Another milestone moment was finding out at the Florida Bar Annual Convention in Boca Raton in 2013 that I was appointed to be the Elder Law Executive Committee and would serve as secretary for the section. I have served this section in several different roles including law school liaison, treasurer, and Substantive chair and I enjoyed serving in each and every position (except that of treasurer…whew that was challenging)

I became board certified in Elder Law in 2014 ….

Now here I am serving as Chair of this amazing section.  I continue to be impressed with our section members and their dedication to advocating for and protecting the rights of the elderly and vulnerable in our state.   Each week I receive calls or emails from law students, new attorneys, or experienced practicing attorneys who are thinking about practicing in the field of Elder law.  I ALWAYS make the time to speak with these attorneys and answer their questions and meet with them when possible.  In believe that in learning you will teach, in teaching you will learn.  I really enjoy my role of being a mentor.

My advice to those considering practicing in elder law is to first of all join the section.  This is a great section filled with attorneys who are willing to assist you if they see that you are making an effort.  I also recommend that you join the mentoring committee.


Words of wisdom to mentees.

I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples. —Mother Teresa


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