By Gulliver Brady, Elder & Disability Law Clinic Student, Spring 2018

In my limited experience as a pseudo-professional, I have learned that a 9:30 pm email usually comes with bad news, an assignment, and a stressful night. However, last week I received a 9:30 pm email that left me saddened rather than stressed. My client’s daughter emailed me to inform me that her father had passed away earlier that day.

Because mortality is a factor in most of the cases the clinic takes, I should not have been so shocked to learn of a client’s death. As this clinic specializes in elder law, the clients we represent are largely advanced in age. Many of our clients seek our assistance in end-of-life planning. We also help our clients secure the financial and medical aid they need as they age. The client’s passing was, nonetheless, shocking news.

I regret that I was unable to help my client in any tangible way before his death. The client, a war-time veteran, sought assistance from the clinic in obtaining financial benefits from the VA. These benefits were to be used to pay the veteran’s nursing home bills. Though we determined that he was likely eligible for VA assistance, he died before receiving any such assistance.

Upon receiving the sad news, I responded to my client’s daughter, hopefully conveying my condolences and possible next steps. At the conclusion of our email conversation, the daughter told me that the clinic had been a lifeline for her. Though I was unable to help her father in a concrete way, I am glad the clinic provided some comfort, support, and assistance to our client and his daughter.

As an elder law clinic, we seek to provide legal assistance to seniors in our community. Sometimes, circumstances beyond our control render us unable to achieve our clients’ legal goals. However, I think the clinic may still provide a valuable service if we serve as a lifeline and support system for our clients and their families. This experience has taught me the important non-legal assistance an attorney should give a client. I am grateful to my client and this clinic for teaching me this lesson.