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Attorney Joellen Meckley offers elder law clients unique, firsthand experience and compassion while they navigate the challenges of aging.

by Liz Hunter

Joellen Meckley never quite expected to become an attorney; her career initially took a different path. During college she worked as a nursing assistant in a nursing home and went on to earn a bachelor’s in psychology. With a mind toward improving nursing home conditions, she went on to obtain her master’s in health finance and management and became licensed as a nursing home administrator in the process. At just 25 years old she was managing a nursing home in Baltimore, something she freely admits others may find strange, but she had always been naturally drawn to working with older adults.

Over the course of several years working in the care side of the industry, Meckley became familiar with attorneys working in elder law and was inspired by how they helped aging adults plan ahead and deal with health crises. She realized this could be an opportunity to serve this population in a new way and followed her passion to obtain a degree from the Temple University Beasley School of Law.

After years of having a private practice, Meckley joined Begley Law Group, one of South Jersey’s most reputable firms practicing elder and disability law and estate and asset planning, in 2017. This past November she became a partner in the firm.

“Long before I came to work here I was aware of the Begley Law Group’s stellar reputation,” she says. “Tom Begley is a leader in the field, and when I met him and Ethan [Ordog], we clicked and I just knew this was the place to move my career into the next phase. They deal with each client with com- passion and they are truly nice people. I can’t imagine working in any other setting.” 

Meckley is a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Burlington County and New Jersey and American Bar Associations. She also served on the board of directors for positive aging in Lower Merion from 2013-2016 and has been actively involved in local chambers of commerce and associations.

Meckley’s unique background gives her another level of understanding for seniors and their families and uses that knowledge to help them navigate the options available for long-term care. “I think, because I lived the reality of caring for older adults hands on, I personally know what the struggle is like, the confusion, fear and stress,” she says. “I bring that to the table with every client. Instead of immediately going to the legal matters, I begin by talking about the person’s situation, their care, their life.”

Education is often the first element of her interaction with clients. “There is a lot of misinformation out there. People get their information about elder law and nursing homes from conversations in coffee shops and beauty salons,” Meckley says. “We try to educate as much as possible. We don’t just say, ‘This is what you’re going to do.’ We give them the why, present options and they make the decision.”

While there is no pre-determined age for meeting an elder law attorney, Meckley says she sees a pattern of people falling into one of two categories. One being an older adult who doesn’t know what to do and is in a crisis, or the other is someone trying to be proactive. “We always say, if you’ve received any kind of diagnosis, one that is progressively disabling, absolutely come in immediately for planning,” she says. “These types of diseases are often diagnosed in the early stages and within a few years they will decline, so the farther ahead you do planning, the better the outcome.”

For folks in their 70s, Meckley says they are welcome to come in for a consultation. “Many people are worried about losing their assets to a nursing home, and if you’re not ill it’s still good to know some options available and then revisit them in a few years.”

Alleviating stress is easily the thing she finds most rewarding about her career. “Hands down, when a family comes in stressed to their limit with no idea where to turn, finding a pathway for them that results in a great outcome for mom and dad—there is nothing more rewarding,” she says.

Looking into the future of the field, Meckley sees an increased focus on independence. “I think as baby boomers transition into this phase, they’re not satisfied with the idea of ending up in a care facility,” she says. “I see folks coming in with a focus on planning strongly geared toward maintaining independence as much as possible.”

As someone who has been working in the area of elder care in various capacities for over two decades, Meckley is proud of her combined experience. “Working in the long-term care industry prior to being an attorney is a difficult job. It’s a high-stress profession,” she says. “I feel like the time I’ve invested has made me a better attorney, more compassionate. I feel very proud of my early career accomplishments and achieving partnership at this firm makes me excited about my career long term.” 

Begley Law Group, PC
509 S. Lenola Road, Building 7, Moorestown
800-533-7227 |
BegleyLawGroup.com

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Magazine, Volume 15, Issue 10 (January 2019).

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