Elder Law Clinic

The Elder Law Clinic’s goal is to teach law students the practical skills to successfully practice law, with a focus on legal issues affecting older adults. Students represent low-income clients in a variety of legal matters. Clients are referred to the clinic from many community sources, such as hospitals, social workers, the Area Agency on Aging, local courts, and previous clients. Students, working in teams, take primary responsibility for representing clients, under the supervision of clinic faculty.

Services to the Public

  • Students provide free legal services to low-income older adults (aged 60+) and/or clients’ family members.
  • Services focus on advance planning for incapacity (including Powers of Attorney and Living Wills), simple estate planning, guardianship and related matters, Medical Assistance for long term care, settlement of estates with limited assets/small estates, and grand-parenting issues.
  • Students also provide community presentations on elder law issues.

People seeking legal assistance should call the clinic’s intake number, 412-648-1300, and provide information about their legal issue and financial status. Not all cases can be accepted for representation. Representation is focused on clients in Allegheny County.

Elder Law Clinic Education:

Description of Fieldwork / Client Representation

Students interview clients, conduct the necessary factual investigation and legal research for their cases, draft legal documents and pleadings, prepare clients for hearings, and represent them at hearings. Students may also make community presentations on elder-law issues. Students' court appearances predictably occur at guardianship hearings in the Orphans' Court under the supervision of the clinic’s supervising attorney. Students work with a partner, where possible, and have a caseload of between six and eight cases at a time, all in various stages of development. Students must spend a minimum of 104 hours over the course of the semesters (approximately 8-10 hours/week) in client representation.

Description of Classroom Component

Elder Law Clinic students and the clinic’s supervising attorney meet together for an average of five hours per week. In addition to two scheduled classes, an additional office hour/case rounds meeting is held each week to discuss students' client work; students report on a case they are preparing, report on cases that have been completed, consult with one another on case challenges, etc.

Substantive materials relevant to classes are posted on the Elder Law Clinic TWEN Web site. All classes are participatory and interactive, to maximize student involvement.

Credits

7

Transcript / Awarding of Credits

End of semester.

Extension

Yes — for 2 credits with faculty permission.

Eligibility Requirements / Prerequisites

Students who have successfully completed 3 semesters of law school.

Application Procedure and Selection Basis

There is no special application procedure; students must attend a clinic informational session prior to registration. Students can then register in the same way they do for any other law school course

Faculty / Staff

Martha M. Mannix, Clinical Associate Professor of Law/Supervising Attorney

Martha Mannix's interest in elder law is a product of her three years of empirical research on guardianship reform in Pennsylvania. Through this foundation-funded research project, Mannix analyzed implementation of guardianship reform in Allegheny County and was instrumental in developing an Orphans' Court pilot project utilizing a special master in guardianship proceeding.

In addition to her clinical teaching, Mannix is active within the aging services community of Allegheny County, working with the Guardianship Committee of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Partnership on Aging to develop a Guide for Guardians. She is a member of the Elder Law Committee of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Mannix is a former staff attorney and assistant director of the Office of Staff Attorneys for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Prior to joining the Law School, she was engaged in private practice in Pittsburgh, concentrating in business litigation. She is a member of the bars of Pennsylvania and California (inactive). She has served on the Board of Directors of the Southwestern Pennsylvania 

Corinne Wdowiak, Clinic Administrator