Jenica Cassidy (’14) finds opportunities in growing field of elder law

Photo of Jenica Cassidy ('14)

Jenica Cassidy ('14)

Jenica Cassidy (’14) sees many opportunities in the growing field of elder law. 

Born in Seattle, Cassidy earned her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Upon graduation, she followed her passion for the law to Wake Forest.

“I chose Wake Forest for law school because an alumni friend recommended that I check it out and, after visiting the campus, meeting the professors and researching all of its programs, I knew Wake Forest was the best fit for me,” Cassidy explained.

This semester, she is participating in the Elder Law Clinic and has furthered her interest in the subject through an internship with the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law & Aging.

“I’m taking the clinic because every single student I spoke with who took the clinic said that it was one of the best things they did in law school,” Cassidy said. “Professor Mewhinney runs a fantastic program that provides students the best real-world experience we can get while still in school. I think of it as ‘training wheels’ for the real world – a great stepping stone between law school and law practice.”

Cassidy’s interest in elder law stems from her interest in other sectors of the law and her will to help others.

“I’m interested in elder law because it encompasses many areas of law that I really enjoy, including estate planning, healthcare, and guardianship,” she said. “Elder law attorneys are able to develop close relationships with their clients and act as an advocate on their behalf. Working in elder law is rewarding because you’re able to help people everyday to navigate an often vulnerable and confusing part of their lives. Also, with the baby boomers beginning to retire and the demographic shift towards an older population, there is a growing need for experts in this field.”

Through her internship this past summer with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging in Washington, D.C., Cassidy wrote two articles for the Commission’s publication BIFOCAL.

Jenica’s supervisor on the guardianship project and article was the Commission’s Assistant Director Erica Wood.

“Jenica stood out in her dedication to pursuing elder law, and her quick understanding of the guardianship restoration issue,” Wood wrote in an email. ” It’s a very hot issue right now, and the paper she wrote is getting lots of attention!”

Commission Director Charlie Sabatino also worked closely with Cassidy and said she was the first intern to publish not one, but two articles in the Commission’s publication.

“Jenica’s internship with the Commission represents the kind of multifaceted experience we hope to provide interns, and her work demonstrates the value that interns bring to the Commission,” Sabatino said. ” We aim for at least one practical contribution to our e-journal.  Jenica brought two articles to fruition.”

The ABA Commission on Law and Aging has been part of the ABA since 1979. It has a broad mission to serve as a interdisciplinary leader of the association’s work to strengthen and secure legal rights for the elderly, particularly low-income people.

According to Sabatino, the commission’s internship program focuses on the long-standing aims to improve delivery of legal services to older people.

“Getting people interested at the law-school level is just as important as training lawyers after law school,” he said. “Our main goal is to help educate and hopefully get students excited about the field of aging.”

In the span of a few weeks, Cassidy went from working on guardianship policy at the ABA to handling a real guardianship case in the Elder Law Clinic. She was assigned the clinic’s first court hearing of the semester. Mewhinney and Cassidy were appointed to represent a man whose daughter claimed he was incompetent.

A lot was at stake:  if the court adjudicated Cassidy’s client to be incompetent, someone else – his daughter – would control his money, his assets and where he would live.  Cassidy interviewed her 80-year-old client and his daughter, among others.  She concluded that he did not need the extreme step of guardianship, which should be a last resort.  Instead, she counseled the man about safety concerns raised by the daughter.  She also got affidavits showing that her client could still make good decisions.

Cassidy’s intervention caused the daughter to take a voluntary dismissal of the guardianship case.

Cassidy attributes her recent successes to Wake Forest Law.

“Wake Forest Law has been a great experience overall,” she said.  ”While law school has its challenges, the Wake Forest Law community is extremely supportive and encouraging.”

Upon graduation Cassidy, plans to practice elder law in the Washington, D.C., area.