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How We Learn About the Law: Elder Law

By Steven Tanner on July 17, 2012 10:01 AM

You're not a lawyer, which is why you come to FindLaw's "Learn About the Law" section when you need help with a legal question. The legal professionals who translate "legalese" into plain English and offer practical guidance on a wide variety of topics all approach their subject matter a little differently, even if the overall mission remains constant.

Nicole Johnson, Senior Editor of Consumer Core Content and a licensed attorney, recently discussed how she revamped our Elder Law section to better serve our users' needs. She said the first thing she did was "step into the shoes" of those most likely to seek information about elder care.

Johnson said:

Everyone gets old and at least knows someone who is elderly at any given time. Because aging is such a personal topic for many people, you want to have a more sensitive and compassionate approach.

So after walking around in those shoes for a day or two, thinking about the subject as a whole, Johnson asked herself, "What type of information would I [as in you, dear users] be looking for?" After all, she explained, the most important thing any writer can do is to know their audience.

The audience for elder care information is much larger than the elderly population, she said, since decisions made by or on behalf of elderly people can impact virtually anyone:

I wanted to make sure consumers knew this was a very specialized practice of law that pertains to families as a whole. People talk about elder law as if it doesn't affect them. But it affects everyone.

Case in point: Johnson had listened to NPR's "Family Matters" series during her commute, which explored the challenges of multigenerational families.

Some of the people profiled in the series had left their careers to care for elderly parents, often straining family finances and profoundly impacting day-to-day household dynamics. The series also provided some perspective on the historically large number of individuals from the Baby Boomer generation reaching their golden years.

Looking at what we already had in the current section, Johnson decided we needed better coverage of the basics: "What is elder law? Where can I go for help with an issue? How can an elder law attorney help me and my family?"

Under Johnson's direction, we also expanded our coverage of elder abuse; caring for aging parents; end of life issues; advance directives; and more. We think you'll agree that the revamped Elder Law section is robust, authoritative, and written in a way that makes sense to non-attorneys without being "dumbed-down."

Johnson's even taking her own advice and pressing her family to seek estate planning help.

"When I get into a section," Johnson said. "I'm learning, too."

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