Monday Profile: Christine Caswell

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Christine Caswell is a late-in-life attorney, earning her bar card in 2010.

Prior to that, she worked for 25 years in the communications/ public relations field.

Having spent a lifetime taking care of parents with disabilities, Caswell gravitated to elder law and disability rights within her first months of law school.

She interned at the Sixty-Plus, Inc. Elder Law Clinic at Cooley and worked at Elder Law of Michigan, Inc. for three years.

Caswell is currently a solo attorney at Caswell Law PLLC in Lansing, focusing on elder law, estate planning, small business law, and trust management.

She is also a member of the Elder Law and Disability Rights Council for SBM, serves on AARP Michigan’s Capitol Corps and the Strategic Communications Advisory Committee of the Small Business Association of Michigan, and is a member of the Mid-Michigan Inns of Court.

The Lansing native attended kindergarten through law school within a seven-mile radius.

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

Residence:  Lansing.

What is your most treasured material possession? A 17-year-old RAV4 that is leaking oil but keeps on running.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? 
Go to law school only if a legal education is important to you. Don’t do it for the money or because it looks exciting on television.

Favorite local hangouts: El Azteco West and DeLuca’s.

Why did you become a lawyer? The funding in my communications position was being cut, and I knew I needed to do something different. The pieces just fell together from deciding to take the LSAT in January 2007 to starting law school in May 2007 with a huge scholarship from Cooley.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? Coventry Cathedral. World War II was just a history lesson until I went to England as a teenager and saw the impact the war had had there.

What is one thing you would like to learn to do? Speak Spanish, albeit with a really bad accent.

What is something most people don’t know about you? At 17, I went to choir school in Darley Dale, England. I may have been one of the weakest choristers, but at least I can say I was there.

What is the best advice you ever received?
On God’s straight path, there are many crooked roads.

What would surprise people about your job?
I don’t like going to court. I’m not a trial attorney. I prefer to work with clients and help them meet their needs while also helping them preserve their personal relationships.
 
What do you find to be the most frustrating part of your work?
People don’t like to think about death. They like to think about becoming sick or disabled even less. But by not dealing with these issues and planning ahead, they end up putting their physical well being and their finances in the hands of the court. Family caregivers are already overstressed without having to go to court to seek guardianships and conservatorships. It doesn’t cost that much to get good powers or attorney in place, and they may be the most important documents you ever execute.

What advice would you give law students who are considering solo practice?
This is one of the few fields where you can start your own business as soon as you get your license. The trick is getting clients in the door. As a former PR person, I knew the power of networking and using free and low-cost advertising, such as volunteering for speaking engagements, creating events, running ads in local newsletters, and joining organizations related to the areas in which I wanted to practice. I was still a student when I joined the Elder Law Section and started going to meetings. But if you’re going to solo, you also need to know how to manage money, and prepare to be poor. Even when you have one great year, you never know what the next one has in store. Personally, I have been able to survive because I run a virtual office. Because so many of my clients are elderly and have disabilities, I often go to them, although I do have a conference room I rent.
 
What do you do on the Elder Law and Disability Rights Council? I am currently the managing editor of the section’s quarterly newsletter, I worked on the Fall Conference Planning Committee for a number of years, and I chair the Mental Health Committee. In 2013, a number of our members, including myself, spoke at the Mental Health and Wellness Commission public meetings held around the state. It was very rewarding to see our comments included in the commission’s final report, and I hope those comments have a lasting impact on improving mental health services in Michigan.

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