• law student consulting an elder family

    The Alona Cortese Elder Law Center

    Chapman law students provide vital legal assistance to low income seniors.

» The Alona Cortese Elder Law Center

Founded in 2000, the Alona Cortese Elder Law Center 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.

Enrolled students 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 center is 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 Center has resolved more than 200 cases. In one recent 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 recent 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 over $10,000. Fowler Law students convinced the judge that airlifting our client was medically necessary.

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.

The Student Experience

  • Chad E. ('14)
  • Haaris S. ('14)
  • Megan D. ('15)
  • Jordana S. ('13)
  • 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."

    -Chad E. (J.D. '14)

  • 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."

    -Haaris S. (J.D. '14)

  • 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. "

    -Megan D. (J.D. '15)

  • 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."

    -Jordana F. (J.D. '13)

+ - Course Information for Students

This 3 unit clinical class teaches the theory and practice of elder law, which focuses on the legal problems of older adults. The class covers health care decision making, medical ethics and end-of-life issues, public benefits for the elderly, Medicaid planning, mental capacity issues and conservatorships for the elderly, property management for the elderly, and ethical problems that arise when representing the elderly. In addition to the classroom component, students work directly with clients and engage in interviewing, counseling, preparation of draft and final documents, and possible representation of clients in administrative hearings. The class is useful for students interested in the growing practice area of elder law or in a general practice that includes representing elderly clients. The class develops legal skills useful in almost any practice.

Enrollment is limited to 14 students. Prerequisites: successful completion or concurrent enrollment in Evidence and Civil Procedure II; willingness to become a Certified Law Student. This course will satisfy the Lawyering Skills requirement.

Recent News

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

Contact Us

Alona Cortese Elder Law Center 
714-628-2504

Professor Kurt Eggert, Director 
keggert@chapman.edu

Professor Sandra Skahen, Associate Clinical Professor
skahen@chapman.edu

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.

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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."

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.”