The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client Book Review


I don't know what it was that I expected when I picked up a copy of Robert Mongue's latest book, "The Empowered Paralegal: Working with the Elder Client" but that wasn't as important as the fact that I just couldn't put it down.

This is a book for everyone. While it is written specifically for paralegals, just substitute any position and you have a book that teaches you how to deal, motivate and learn from the older generations.   This publication is not only for paralegals, it can be read by lawyers, administrators, legal secretaries - practically anyone who works in any capacity in a law firm environment.  Why?  Because for the first time that I can remember, someone is teaching how to handle the characteristics, traits, mental capacity and appropriateness of actions to age of clients and colleagues.

Mongue's book does not cover the ho and the hum of regular "how-to" paralegal books.  In fact, what he covers should be taught in every school regardless of specialty, profession or even age.  Here, Mongue deals with our feelings about aging and the myths, stereotypes, cultural prejudices and extrapolations to the general population based upon personal experience.  He draws you in as he explains behavior and the aging proces and teaches you how to react as a result. As it turns out,  much of what we think about the elderly is wrong, wrong, wrong.

With the millions of Baby Boomers about to set siege in the swamplands of Florida; the sunbelt of the Southwest and the hot, hot, hot but dry desert weather in Palm Springs, many firms and paralegals recognize that acting as counsel and paralegals for the senior generation will be much different than how the younger set thinks, acts and reacts. For the first time, Mongue tells you why so that you are better equipped for a smoother meeting, deposition, will writing, client meeting or other important event in your client's space.

Mongue goes into great detail describing the professionalism and protocol you need in order to get the best possible information, client relationship, witness testimony and cooperation from an aging society.  It's simply fascinating.  One chapter is devoted to death, dying and the end of life planning while another explains simply how to understand the differences in cultures such as generalities and diversity; Moslem, Jews, Catholics, Christians, Native Americans, Latinos/Hispanics, African Americans and others in what they want as they wind up the last quarter of their lives.

The book gives great tips on how to best communicate with someone in their later years.  It teaches you how to talk to a senior citizen; how to best safe-proof their homes for optimum safety as the body changes and much more.

For any paralegal working with elderly clients, this book is a must-read.  Even if you are working with graying baby boomers who are your colleagues, this book will clarify much of the "how-to's" and answer the why's:  Why is the boomer thinking that way; why is last to embrace certain things but so much further ahead in accepting other concepts? Why doesn't she understand me?  The publication is artful in describing chronological, sociological, biological and psychological aging in a style that immediately captivates the reader.  The book is so good,  that you can substitute any part of the paralegal's role throughout the book with another position entirely and still learn a brand new skill.

The chapter on Estate Planning and the Perils of Intestancy  is excellent.  The book covers "how-to" of estate planning such as a) explaining basic concepts  b) writing forms c)  the estate  d) clarifying confusing basic estate plans e) basic estate planning.

The rich voice and highly expressive tone of the book plus the sharing of some of Mongue's personal stories makes this book a great learning tool for paralegals of any level and any specialty.  I highly recommend it to experienced paralegals, students, attorneys, legal assistants and anyone, anywhere who simply wants to be able to get their message across to those who have crossed over into eligibility for the early blue plate special at Tony's Trattoria down the street.  

Ranking:   *****  5 stars out of 5 stars
Publisher: Carolina Academic Press, Durham, North Carolina
Pages:  328 pages


Paralegal Buys Law Practice from Elderly Lawyer for $20.00

J0400849 This goes right up there in the "Hall of Shame" red file.  According to the ABA Journal (quoting from the Orange County Register in Orange County, CA), a paralegal "bought" a law practice valued at $750,000 from an elderly, 84-year-old lawyer for $20.00.

The lawyer, suffering from dementia, sold his practice to 42 year-old Mario David Abernathy of Garden Grove, CA. 

Abernathy was sentenced to two years in state prison for felony grand theft from an elderly person. He was also ordered to pay $15,300 in restitution to the victim. In addition, the grant deed and documents transferring the victim's law practice, estate and finances to the defendant and his family were ordered to be declared null and void.

The Orange County Public Guardian obtained temporary conservatorship to protect the financial holdings of the attorney, whose wife of more than 50 years had recently died in July 2008, according to a statement released Friday by the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Abernathy, who is informally trained as a paralegal, met the attorney in August, 2008 and befriended the victim. Abernathy then started to take advantage of the victim's deteriorating medical condition, according to District Attorney spokeswoman Farrah Emami.

The Orange County Public Guardian noticed an unauthorized withdrawal from the victim's bank account and alerted Anaheim Police after they were unable to locate the attorney.

Anaheim police arrested Abernathy on Sept. 26, 2008, when they found him with the victim in a fast-food parking lot. Prosecutors did not make public the name of the victim because of his medical condition and out of concern for his privacy.

District attorney recognizes paralegal for law enforcement assistance

Sure like it when everyday citizens find & help solve crimes! Read all about it in this article from California's Auburn Journal:

"The message from the Placer County District Attorney's Office was that law enforcement can't go it alone.

"'Many ignore the call,' District Attorney Brad Fenocchio said, during a ceremony honoring several who stepped up to assist an investigation or put a suspect behind bars.

"Area residents who went above and beyond that call stepped up Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors to receive praise and certificates from the District Attorney's Office.


"Paralegal Gayle McMorow noticed some inconsistencies in an 87-year-old woman's checking account, reported what turned out to be theft by a former caregiver, and assisted with a felony elder abuse case that took three years to prosecute."

Congrats to Gayle!!

"Senior Legal Hotline connects seniors with the experts"

Sounds like a good volunteering opportunity described in this Chico, CA newspaper article. Does your local government or bar association offer similar programs?

"The Senior Legal Hotline is surely one of the best kept secrets. The hotline provides California residents over the age of 60 with fast, accurate advice on any legal subject by phone, from Social Security issues to age discrimination, housing and elder abuse.

"Sound too good to be true? The service is provided by a team of lawyers, paralegals [volunteer info PDF], interns and volunteers who help more than 10,000 callers a year solve problems faced by seniors, and may offer limited extra assistance when required. Perhaps a child custody problem arises, where a grandparent is held out of the health care system. Or, as many of callers can attest, seniors are pressured to obtain a loan they neither need nor can afford, and require extraction from deals that further place them in financial jeopardy."

On the job: Certified case manager, geriatric care manager, & paralegal

Don't think I've ever known a paralegal who wears such different career 'hats'!

Jeanne Tolomeo: Certified case manager; geriatric care manager; paralegal; Fletcher, Tilton & Whipple

What do you do?
“'I am a caretaker. That’s my case manager part. I work with (the law firm’s elderly) clients and make sure they have the best care possible, whether it is in their home, assisted living or a nursing home. I make sure that they are happy with all their care — with their care, their food, physical therapy. I make sure everybody works as a team with them. I am also an advocate, so I advocate for their rights, especially their state and federal benefits.


You are a paralegal and geriatric care manager. How does that shape the way you approach client problems?
“'We are always taught to remember who the client is, then I need to listen carefully to what they are saying, then I have to determine which agency to call for their benefits. I would not know that if I didn’t work in a law firm. I also know that to do certain things, you have to have a power of attorney, a health care proxy, permission to share letters. So working for a law firm, I can be much more organized and provide depth to the client. Even reading nursing home or assisted living contracts, I can read those and know what they say, and can always rewrite them — which I have done.'”

Legal Research Guide: Elder Law

The Virtual Chase points to elder law info from the ABA:

"Legal Guide for Older Americans: The American Bar Association Commission on Law and Aging makes available a legal information guide for seniors. It provides an overview of 10 topics, including age discrimination, retirement rights and benefits [PDF link], Medicare, housing and long-term care [PDF link]. Each chapter consists of a separate PDF document."