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President's Message

Ready or Not -- Change is Coming

By Letha Sgritta McDowell, CELA, CAP

NAELANewsVol33No3 I don’t know about you, but it seems as if life is returning to normal. However, “normal” looks different now than what it looked like before the pandemic. I can’t quite pinpoint exactly what it is; perhaps a newfound appreciation for the ability to work from home or more virtual client meetings. Regardless, change has come to the workplace, to home, and to NAELA.

I am looking forward to this coming year as NAELA’s President, and I am prepared for challenges and change. NAELA’s Executive Director, Pete Wacht, is retiring from association management at the end of the year. Pete’s dedication to NAELA and NAELA staff over the past 12 years has put NAELA in an excellent financial position and given us the ability to expand the services that NAELA offers its members. We are now searching for a new Executive Director, and whoever that may be, she or he has some big shoes to fill and there will be change. Yet change is not something to be feared; change presents opportunities — opportunity for growth and a new perspective, which is exciting for all NAELA members.

Every few years, NAELA engages in strategic planning to help ensure that NAELA membership continues to be valuable to elder and special needs law attorneys. The strategic planning was delayed due to COVID, but the Board anticipates that planning will begin early 2022. The challenge will be to support our members, providing the services that NAELA has always provided and in determining what else NAELA needs to do as the practice changes.

As we move into this year of change, we will also see more changes to how law is practiced. The practice of elder and special needs law is significantly different now than at NAELA’s founding in 1989. NAELA’s sections and NAELA’s Programs and Publications Steering Committee aim to help support NAELA members with the change in how law is practiced and with the change in the subject of the practice.

In addition to coming changes in our organization and in the practice, there have been some changes on Capitol Hill that have created opportunities for NAELA in the advocacy arena. ­NAELA’s public policy efforts are no longer defensive, and NAELA can support and influence legislation that aims to increase home and community-based service (HCBS) programs offered through Medicaid. In addition, it is likely that these efforts at expanding HCBS will open opportunities for advocacy at the state level and give NAELA Chapters the ability to demonstrate how valuable they are to the members and the general public. Tax changes are also likely, and the clients we serve will want to know how those tax changes will affect them. NAELA is here to advocate for our clients’ needs and help educate members about all these changes.

If you hadn’t thought about it already, I hope you are now. Change is coming, change has arrived, and NAELA is doing what it can to support members with these changes. As always, I encourage you all to continue to “do well by doing good,” and so will NAELA and your Board of Directors.

I am looking forward to this coming year as NAELA’s President, and I am prepared for challenges and change.
About the Author
Karen Mariscal, Esq., a special needs planner in Wellesley, Massachusetts, is the mother of an intellectually disabled autistic adult son and an avid reader. Send the names of your favorite books on this subject to Karen Mariscal at ­
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