Scholarship Offering Erde Public Interest Experience in Elder Law

Rebecca Erde discusses a case with Michael Roth, executive director of CDEL.

A semester-long internship at the Center for Disability and Elder Law (CDEL) sponsored by the legal department of AT&T is giving third-year law student Rebecca Erde hands-on experience for her future profession.

Erde, who has a journalism degree from the University of Wisconsin and an M.B.A. from DePaul University, left a 12-year career in advertising and marketing to pursue a law degree. She will receive a JD from The John Marshall Law School in January with a certificate in Elder Law.

“I’m hoping to assist the growing elderly and disabled population with critical financial and health care planning,” Erde said. As part of her internship, she received a $2,500 scholarship award from AT&T. At CDEL she has worked on the Senior Center Initiative program, drafted wills, interviewed disabled and elderly candidates to determine their legal needs, assisted people with filing petitions and court proceedings at the Pro Se Guardianship Help Desk at the Daley Center, and with her 711 license Erde is able to represent candidates with petitions for Guardianship. Additionally, she serves on CDEL’s Young Professional Board.

After graduation, Erde intends to continue at CDEL doing pro bono work.

This is the third initiative AT&T has undertaken on behalf of CDEL and part of the company’s legal department’s goal to foster more pro bono service, even at the law school level. Since 2009, AT&T staff attorneys have been assisting with the Senior Tax Opportunity Program (STOP), a CDEL program designed to help seniors at risk of losing their homes due to delinquent property tax payments. AT&T also assists CDEL’s Senior Center Initiative. Over the past two years, AT&T attorneys have helped 60 senior citizen clients make informed decisions about end-of-life issues, including power of attorney, wills, property and health care.

Erde’s AT&T Excellence in Pro Bono Legal Service Award recognizes the excellent opportunities available to John Marshall students through internships and pro bono legal work in support of CDEL and other programs locally and nationally. The program, begun in 2010, is also helping to provide much-needed resources for CDEL, while recognizing Erde’s long-term commitment to pro bono service.

Erde admits she is in a unique position because her father, attorney Michael Erde, is a leader in elder law in the Chicago area. Although her father’s work has made quite an impression on her, she has been developing her own interest in the field and has proactively found opportunities to share information on the importance of elder law. She has an outstanding academic record and has won the CALI Award for the highest grade in the Elder Law Financial Planning Course as well as the Best Brief Award in the Herzog trial course competition. Erde is currently an assistant teacher for the Elder Law Guardianships course and has been a teaching assistant for the Elder Law Preserving Independence and Dignity course. After she graduates, she intends to assistant teach with her father when he will be an adjunct professor for the Ethics in Elder Law course.

Erde has represented John Marshall at the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) Law Student Day program in November. She is serving as chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Young Leadership Section Estate Planning Committee and is an active member of the Illinois State Bar Association and NAELA.

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