Hopalong Cassidy, Dale Evans, and Elder Lawyers
“R.W. Hampton.” (On the left) Like most baby boomers, I grew up in the age of the TV-cinema-cowboy-hero. Through television, the good guys of the cinematic Old West rode, roped, and fought their way into our hearts and minds. We boomers were saturated with the “Code of the West.” Our heroes were simple and straightforward about their virtues—and it was always easy to recognize the Bad Guys. The Bad Guys rustled stock from the honest folk. Bad Guys—some disguised as bankers and businessmen—misused their power and position to cheat good and hard-working citizens out of their homes, ranches, and livestock. Meanwhile the Good Guys wore white hats (with the exception of Hopalong Cassidy) and selflessly fought evil as they helped the poor, oppressed, innocent, and vulnerable. When I first went to law school, I carried that “cowboy code” inside me. Like many idealistic law students, I imagined using my legal skills to fight injustice and protect the innocent—just as my heroes had done. But I soon found that real lawyering is seldom as glamorous and interesting as a TV show—so like most attorneys, I spent the better part of my first 25 years becoming very efficient and effective at moving mountains of real estate and tax documents for clients. It was not the work of a hero, but it paid the bills. Without recognizing it, my legal career began to change in 2000. Due to the aging issues of my parents’ generation, I became a part of a “tribe” of lawyers who practice elder law. This is a niche legal practice that combines estate planning, taxation, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, elder abuse, and more to focus on assisting the frail elderly to achieve the goals of quality health care while avoiding needless impoverishment. Most of these elder law attorneys are boomers who have dedicated themselves to serving seniors and those who love them. Most of the men and women I have met through the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) have been touched by a loved one’s long-term illness or a disability. They strive selflessly and sacrificially to help the widow(er), the caregiver spouse/adult child, and the frail elderly. To me, those elder law attorneys are the modern equivalent of Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, or Hopalong Cassidy. I am proud to have learned from them and to know them as colleagues and friends.