Elder Law Clinic

For Law Students

Students provide legal advice and representation to individuals aged 60 and over on civil matters such as health care; medicare, medicaid and other public benefits; protection from abuse, neglect, and exploitation; advance directives and durable powers of attorney; will drafting; consumer fraud; and a broad array of other legal needs. For the first half day of registration, enrollment is limited to third-year students or those with at least 54 credit hours. After that, second-year students may also enroll.

LAW 665-003

Interim Director

Gaines Brake


2Ls and 3Ls, but preference in registration is given to 3rd year students.

Credit hours/duration

The clinic is offered for 6 credits and is a one-semester clinic.

Weekly classes

Seminar: 1 hour TBA

Case Staffing: 1 hour TBA

The Elder Law Clinic is one of the oldest and most well-established of the Law School’s clinical programs, operating continuously for more than 30 years. The Elder Law Clinic is also known as Legal Counsel for the Elderly and has a reputation in the community as a provider of both legal representation and public education and information about legal issues which particularly concern senior citizens.

The Elder Law Clinic provides high quality legal advice and representation while also providing a closely-supervised and professionally challenging clinical experience for second- and third-year law students. The Clinic staff consists of Gaines Brake (interim director), Shelly Darling (staff attorney), Ora Brown Lavender (paralegal), and Diane Simpson (administrative assistant). Through the combined efforts of the staff and students, the Elder Law Clinic usually handles several hundred cases per year.

Highlights of Elder Clinic Activities

The Elder Law Clinic measures its accomplishments not only in terms of case outcomes and disputes resolved but also in terms of the peace of mind and reassurance that our clients receive from placing their affairs in proper order. In that regard, the Clinic commonly assists clients in drafting planning documents such as durable powers of attorney, advance health care directives, and wills. These documents ensure that clients maintain control over their affairs and health care decisions regardless of what events may occur. Some of the Clinic’s accomplishments in recent years have included the return of more than $200,000 in client funds invested in so-called “Medicaid annuities,” the recovery of thousands of dollars of client funds from children or fiduciaries who refused to return those funds, the successful termination of guardianships in which the incapacitated person had recovered to a state of independence, successful appeals of adverse Medicaid decisions, the recovery of damages from contractors for negligently completed or uncompleted home repairs, and the recovery at trial of a client’s real property which was accidentally conveyed to the wrong person.

Who Does the Elder Clinic Represent?

The Elder Law Clinic receives Title III funding under the Older Americans Act through the local Area Agency on Aging to provide free legal assistance to residents sixty years of age and older in the seven West Alabama counties of Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Pickens, and Tuscaloosa. The Clinic provides assistance with most non-criminal legal matters.

What Type of Work Will I Do in the Elder Clinic?

Students in the Clinic provide free legal advice and representation concerning all aspects of a wide variety of civil legal matters. In addition to the largely transactional work of drafting planning documents, the Clinic commonly represents clients in consumer fraud cases, Medicaid disputes, credit reporting and collection cases, and many other types of civil disputes. Clinic students have legal and ethical responsibility for their cases. Once assigned, the case is the responsibility of the student, but all students practice under the supervising attorney’s law license, meet on a regular basis with the supervisor to discuss the case, and are supervised at hearings by the Clinic attorneys. Third-year students who have registered as a law student with the Alabama State Bar can obtain a student practice card and may directly represent clients at trial or administrative hearings under the supervision of the Clinic director.

Clinic students will get significant experience in drafting wills, powers of attorney, trusts and other planning documents. In addition, clinic students actively participate in negotiating settlements, providing formal legal advice and counsel, conducting factual investigation of their cases and conducting legal research concerning the issues raised.

What are the Elder Clinic Credits and Workload?

The Elder Clinic is a one-semester, 6-credit course and is open to both 2nd and 3rd year law students (with a preference in registration given to 3rd year students). Third-year students must be registered as a law student with the Alabama State Bar WELL IN ADVANCE OF THE BEGINNING OF THE SEMESTER in order to receive the necessary student practice card. Students without a practice card may take the Clinic, but will not be able to appear in court or provide legal advice directly to their clients. Students are expected to spend an average of 14 hours per week on Clinic classes and casework. The classes include a weekly seminar in which students learn the substantive and procedural laws related to elder client representation and discuss the practice skills and professional responsibility issues relevant to their cases. In addition, students meet once a week for a case staffing conference, at which time students discuss new requests for assistance and decide which cases to accept and what services to provide. Finally, students meet with the director once a week for direct case supervision, at which time students present their plan for the development of their cases and discuss how cases are progressing.

About Gaines Brake

Gaines B. Brake serves as Interim Director of the Elder Law Clinic. He earned his B.A. degree, cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from Birmingham-Southern College (1998), his M.M. degree from the University of Alabama (2000), and his J.D. degree from the University of Alabama School of Law (2006). Mr. Brake was Managing Editor of the Journal of the Legal Profession, was inducted into the Bench and Bar legal honor society and represented the school on its Arbitration Team. Prior to joining the law school, Mr. Brake worked as a Staff Attorney with the Alabama Disabilities Advocacy Program, representing children with disabilities. Before entering the public interest field, he practiced for six years with the Tuscaloosa firm of Zeanah, Hust, Summerford & Williamson, LLC. There, his practice focused on litigation, estate planning, probate and general practice matters. Mr. Brake has published in the areas of Social Security representative payees and alternatives to guardianship. He is also active in the community, serving on the Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa since 2011 and as its Chair from 2013 to 2015. He served on the Board of the Friends of Alabama Public Radio from 2010 to 2015, serving as its Chair in 2014.