Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Elder law outreach program gaining traction

In 2015, Harter Secrest & Emery LLP launched the HELP-U program in conjunction with the University of Rochester General Counsel Office to reach the underserved older population by focusing on residents in Rochester Housing Authority buildings. Since then information clinics have been held at Kennedy Tower, Ridge Hudson Towers, Lena Gantt Estates, Lexington Court, University Tower, Lake Tower, Keeler Park Apartments, and Danforth Towers.

“VLSP has offered Wills Clinics in the past, but this outreach program has more potential to reach clients in need by bringing information into the community where many of the eligible clients live,” noted Ann Williams, VLSP staff attorney.

Jon O. Webster
Jon O. Webster, pro bono coordinator at HS&E, was instrumental in establishing this program to focus on the area’s underserved older population. Webster enlisted colleague David Ferris, an experienced elder law attorney, to mentor volunteer attorneys who don’t regularly work with wills, health care proxies, and powers of attorney.

For any specific location, an information clinic is first held to advise residents on the purpose and need for a will, health care proxy, or other end-of-life documents.   A second clinic is scheduled a couple weeks after that to provide one-on-one guidance for those interested.   There is no charge for the clinic or the preparation of documents that can provide a great deal of peace of mind and protection as residents live out their senior years.

“The second clinic is particularly enjoyable since we have already built a bond with the clients, and they get to see their wishes put into writing,” said Webster.

From Harter Secrest & Emery, the following attorneys have participated in clinics to date:  Andrew J. Anderson, Emily R. L. Cohen, Jeffrey M. Donigan, Lucrecia Z. Knapp, Jacob C. Miller, Glenn R. Schieck, Scott Simpson, Edward (Ted) Townsend, Ferris and Webster. 

Due to the success of the local initiative, Harter Secrest & Emery initiated a similar pro bono program in conjunction with their Buffalo office, working with VLSP’s Erie County counterpart.

Shani Mitchell
Mark Wright from the UR General Counsel Office and Aileen Shinaman have also been involved, along with several volunteers from Rochester Black Bar Association (Shani Mitchell, Nicole Harris, and LaToya Lee) and the Attorney Emeritus Program (Gary VanGraafeiland, Seymour Weinstein and Barbara Heyne.)

Written by Nora A. Jones

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