Elder law is more than a job – it's a joy
My name is Misty Clark Vantrease and I am a partner at Kentucky ElderLaw, PLLC and a member of the Advisory Board for EPEL. I graduated from the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville in 2001 and have focused my practice entirely on elder law since 2011. When someone asks my seven-year-old son what lawyers do, he says they help people. Some might argue whether that’s true, but for me in own life, I really believe it is. During my time in law school, that was what I was searching for — a way to help.
I started my career as a public defender and spent the first 10 years handling felony — and eventually death penalty — trial work. This was both demanding and rewarding. Things change, though. Life has a funny way of doing that.
In 2010, I found myself about to become a mother and struggling to help take care of my own aging parents who I had moved up from far Western Kentucky to live near me. My father is a disabled veteran who has had strokes, two open heart surgeries, diabetes and significant mobility impairment. While my mom is in great health, the role of caregiver has and is taking its toll on her. Next month, they will celebrate their 59th wedding anniversary and they are, and will always be, inseparable.
As I struggled with these new roles in my own family, I was offered the opportunity to work for Bernard Faller. Bernie graduated law school with me when he was 55 years old. I was 25. He found his calling by striking out on his own in this new area of “elder law.” It was somewhat novel in Kentucky and certainly no one had devoted an entire practice to it. He branded his firm Kentucky ElderLaw and it took off.
Under his tutelage, I learned the skills I needed for the technical navigation of Medicare, Medicaid and VA, along with general estate planning. I also drew from my own personal experiences. I was living what my clients were living in many ways. I could share with them, cry with them, truly empathize with them. When Bernie retired in 2013, I took over the firm with my partner, Kelly Gannott. We now have six lawyers.
My days are long and there are times where I am unbelievably saddened by the loss and pain so many of my clients are experiencing. The cruelty of disease, particularly those that rob us of our memories, is heartbreaking. No matter what, however, I’m glad to be there. I hold their hands. I try to shine light where there is darkness. I give them a shoulder to cry on. I am their voice when they don’t even know what to say. Every day, I want to be that for anyone I can help.
For me, elder law is more than the way I make my living. It’s a joy. Oh — I also get hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.