TUESDAY, JUNE 23
An Oklahoma City University student-run law association was recently formed to help underprivileged senior citizens make important decisions about their personal legal matters.
The OCU School of Law Elder Law Association is a group of students who hold workshops at a local senior shelter and retirement homes to help residents file important legal documents.
Monica Tanzey, a third-year law student, said she saw a need for this organization when she served her internship at AARP and clerked at the Oklahoma Senior Law Resource Center.
“The people I worked for said they wished there was a law student group that could help elderly people in need,” Tanzey said. “After working with area senior citizens, it became clear that there is a local need for these services, and students could benefit by volunteering as well.”
Tanzey explained that while classroom experience is great for “learning the law, analyzing legal issues and testing” when learning the legal profession, working in the field is a necessary part of the educational process as a way to gain experience interacting with clients.
She formed the Elder Law Association during the fall 2008 semester and recruited about 20 fellow students. The association has held workshops at the Sunbeam Family Services senior citizen emergency shelter and has scheduled similar sessions at Grace Living Center. Sunbeam Family Services senior shelter is open to those who have been abused or neglected.
The law association plans to hold workshops throughout the summer at other local retirement centers. Law students help the elderly with issues like advanced healthcare directives, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
“These can be complex issues and the paperwork might be confusing for some people,” Tanzey added.
Volunteers are trained at the school for the specific topics they will address. She said the students must agree to abide by association rules and show an interest in helping.
The association is building a foundation to continue its services well into the future with fundraisers for materials. It has obtained funding and approval from the OCU School of Law Student Bar Association to operate for at least the next school year.
Tanzey said the Elder Law Association has seen many favorable results already with workshops helping multiple seniors at a time.
“I’m amazed at the good we’re doing in the community,” she said.