• Chapman University Elder Law Clinic students assist client at desk
Elder Law Clinic

» Elder Law Clinic

The Elder Law Clinic and the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law provides free legal services to low income seniors throughout the county of Orange. The center has both a classroom and clinical component, allowing students to learn key aspects of elder law while obtaining hands-on experience representing real clients. The center works closely with local legal aid organizations and pro-bono attorneys to maximize services provided to seniors.

Students enrolled in the Elder Law Clinic help clients with numerous legal issues including claims of elder abuse, will drafting, advance health care directives, representation at administrative hearings, Medicare, Social Security, guardianship and conservatorship. Students also provide guidance about clients' rights as consumers and how to avoid financial abuse. The clinic and the center are directed by Fowler School of Law Professor Kurt Eggert.

The center was created with the generous support of its namesake, the late Alona Cortese. It depends upon continued private donations to offer these important free services to our clients. 

In the last two years, the Elder Law Clinic has resolved more than 200 cases. In one notable victory, one of our clients had been denied disability benefits despite a severe disabling illness. A Fowler Law student represented her at an administrative hearing and drafted two briefs in support of her position. She was awarded disability benefits and retroactive benefits, going back almost two years. Our client will no longer have to fear that she has to choose between paying her rent and buying groceries or medicine.

In another victory, a Fowler Law student successfully represented an elderly client in a Medicare hearing who had been denied Medicare benefits. The client, when close to death, had been airlifted from a small hospital to a large hospital that specialized in her condition. Despite pre-approving the transfer, Medicare then later denied coverage of the transfer, costing the client more than $10,000. Fowler Law students convinced the judge that airlifting our client was medically necessary.

Recently, the Elder Law Clinic prevailed in a disability case where the client had been wrongfully denied disability for seven years. After a hearing in front of an administrative law judge, not only did the client start receiving her appropriate benefits, she also received a retroactive payment of more than $100,000 for the time she should have been receiving monthly payments.

Students may also learn to represent disabled or mentally impaired seniors. For instance, two Fowler Law students represented clients in hearings before an administrative law judge, successfully obtaining unemployment benefits for a client and obtaining a ruling overturning a denial of General Relief benefits for a disabled client.

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The Student Experience

  • Megan D. '12 (JD '15)
  • Chad E. (JD '14)
  • Haaris S. (JD '14)
  • Jordana S. (JD '13)
  • Megan"At the clinic, I was able to impact several people's lives. I worked on conservatorships, wills, trusts, pension issues, and restraining orders. Clients were so thankful for the services we provided and many meetings ended in a friendly hug from a client. It was the best feeling to hear the client's relief when I told her that I would be at an upcoming hearing, that was one of those moments that reminded me why I went to law school in the first place."
  • Chad E"Considering our growing senior population, I think elder law is going to play an ever-increasing role in the legal community. Our seniors have unique legal needs, and they need experienced individuals to help meet them, and that's exactly what this clinic does. It gives Fowler Law students the opportunity to have real, practical experience solving problems for one of the most vulnerable populations in our society."
  • Haaris S."I think the clinic is important because it gives students the opportunity to gain valuable hands-on experience with the practice of law and do something charitable at the same time. These two were the biggest reasons why I was drawn to the clinic. The clinic has helped me by giving me experience in handling various matters with clients. Also, meeting and interacting with clients directly made the work that I did for the clinic feel much more personal and rewarding."
  • Jordana
    "Participating in the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center was one of the most rewarding experiences of my law school career. Not only did I gain valuable practical experience in the art of interviewing clients, assembling case files and making court appearances, but I also gained a greater appreciation for the importance of compassion and sensitivity that comes with advocating for those who are truly in need."

Contact Us

Professor Kurt Eggert, Director

Alona Cortese Elder Law Center 
(714) 628-2577
Please email us at elderlaw@chapman.edu.

Thank you to our generous supporters

Alona Cortese Trust

Heidi Cortese

Archstone Foundation

The Auen Foundation

Ann and Dale E. Fowler

Estate of Donald P. Kennedy

Client Testimonials

Alona Cortese Elder Law Center Clients

“We had no attorney and fell short of our retirement funds just getting through life and its unforeseen changes and struggles, including declining health. I am so thankful today for the work of the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center and its fabulous and caring staff.”

"You will never know what a relief it is to have our professional wills and health care directives in our final documents. We had almost given up being able to afford these much-needed documents not only for ourselves but for our loved ones as well.”


Elder Law Clinic News

The Alona Cortese Elder Law Center receives $10,000 donation from the Shady Canyon Golf Club Charitable Foundation. 
Learn more about Shady Canyon Golf Club Charitable Foundation» 

Auen Foundation grant will enable the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center to provide more legal counsel to seniors.
Learn more about the Auen Foundation »

The Alona Cortese Elder Law Center receives $100,000 grant from Archstone Foundation to support vital services for seniors.
Learn more about the Archstone Foundation » 

Framed photo of woman.

About Alona Cortese

In 2004, Alona Cortese and Heidi Cortese, co-trustees of the Alona M. Cortese Trust, made a generous gift to Chapman University that allowed for the purchase and renovation of the vintage bungalow where the Elder Law Center is located. The Center was named in honor of Alona Cortese, who, with husband Ross Cortese, innovated the idea of “Active Senior Living” embodied by the Leisure World properties. The Center’s goal of providing legal protection and representation to seniors is consistent with their vision of creating “better lifestyles at every age.” Learn more about Leisure World.

Headshot of Chapman University professor, Kurt Eggert

Professor Kurt Eggert

"As students learn the law and practice client counseling and representation, elderly clients benefit from legal representation at no cost to them."