Certified Elder Law Attorney


A CELA is a Certified Elder Law Attorney who earned that credential by demonstrating a consistent commitment to the study and practice of elder and special needs law, by possessing a higher level of expertise as a specialist in elder law, and by developing a reputation for enhanced skill within the legal profession and in their community. Certification is granted only after the candidate successfully completes a rigorous written exam testing their mastery of elder and special-needs law topics. 

Those who apply for certification must meet qualifications that include more than a thorough knowledge of elder law. They must also have devoted a substantial amount of time handling a wide range of elder law issues in the years prior to their applying to be certified by NELF. Every CELA candidate must also engage in continuing legal education and exhibit a history of good character and integrity.

Only the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) is approved by the American Bar Association to confer certification to attorneys specializing in the practice of elder and special needs law. To achieve the ABA’s validation, NELF successfully met all the ABA’s Standards for Accreditation of Specialty Certification Programs for Lawyers. 

NELF’s mission is to encourage, develop, and improve the professional competence of lawyers who focus on elder law, and to recognize practicing attorneys whose outstanding skills, experience, and proficiency in the field of elder law set them apart as specialists. The NELF Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) designation enables families, seniors, and people with disability-related issues to identify those lawyers whose professional experience, commitment, and past performance distinguish them in the legal community.

Who Qualifies for NELF’s CELA Credential?


Attorneys seeking the CELA credential from NELF must meet numerous requirements which demonstrate an exceptional level of elder law practice experience as well as a sustained participation in continuing legal education in subjects affecting planning for seniors, disabled individuals, and their families. 

Each lawyer who obtains the CELA designations must meet and maintain these minimum standards:

  • Produce evidence of their substantial involvement in the elder law specialty area, including spending at least 16 hours per week in the past three years on elder and special needs matters, and handled at least 60 elder law matters during each of the three years with a specified distribution among subjects specified by the NELF Board of Certification.
  • Submit references from active lawyers and judges.
  • Pass a full-day written certification examination covering the substantive and procedural law in the specialty area.
  • Certify completion of at least 36 hours of continuing legal education in the specialty area during the three-year period preceding the lawyer’s application for CELA certification.
  • Be admitted to practice in one or more states and maintain membership in good standing.
  • Be re-certified at least every five years.
  • Be subject to revocation or certification if they fail to meet program requirements.
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Why the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) Exists


Since 1993, the National Elder Law Foundation (NELF) has been actively supporting the advancement of knowledge among the nation’s best lawyers about elder and special-needs law practice. As a nonprofit organization devoted to broadening the expertise and improving the competence of attorneys handling issues related to seniors and people with disabilities, NELF awards the CELA credential to those elder law attorneys who sustain a high level of professional excellence over years. The CELA designation serves the interests of clients searching for the most qualified elder law practitioners in their area.