By Nina Polien Light | Photo by Gery Petrof
“We filed for guardianship,” Axner said. “The case lasted a long time and was contentious.”
“She was living in a small, smoke-filled apartment on a second floor and being kept from family and friends,” Friedman said of the elderly woman. “Now, she’s in assisted living, has a guardian, and anyone can visit at any time.”
Cases like this illustrate why the women practice what they call “family needs” law. They focus on elder law, guardianship, probate, trust administration, asset protection, domestic law, and custody issues by offering clients a team approach. Typically, one attorney takes the lead and the other consults.
Friedman’s background in social work coupled with Axner’s MBA and work as a volunteer magistrate for Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court complement each other. Being a social worker puts Friedman at ease when dealing with nursing homes, nonprofits, and clients. Axner — who, like Friedman, worked for banks for years — deals with many of the financial issues involved in their clients’ cases, as well as those necessary in running a successful law firm.
“Karin and I are a double whammy with extra degrees, which makes us unique and our law practice unique,” Friedman says.
Operating as a small firm is also an advantage, they say.
“Lawyers at big firms have no idea about Medicaid planning because that’s not the client who is going to seek help at a big firm,” Friedman says.
Unlike attorneys at more corporate firms, Axner and Friedman are willing to meet clients in their homes after the traditional workday. It is often more convenient for folks who hold jobs, have young children, and are dealing with aging and sometimes ailing parents.
Axner and Friedman’s gender also helps. In elder law cases, the attorneys find it is often a daughter or daughter-in-law who is most influential in helping aging parents make decisions about care and finances. And when older clients are women, they often feel female attorneys understand their needs better.
On Jan. 1 another woman will join the firm. Wanda Jones, who currently shares space with Axner and Friedman, will become a partner of the renamed Axner Friedman Jones & Associates.
Jones — who, like her colleagues, juggles a career and motherhood — serves as a guardian ad litem and concentrates on juvenile and domestic work. She is also a terrific networker, say her soon-to-be partners.
Networking with Bedford Senior Network, Professional Networking Group through the Cleveland Clinic, Elder Care Professionals of Ohio, and Women in Law Section of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association has helped the women build their practice.
“I’m finding women are pretty supportive of other women and of what we’re doing,” Friedman says. “I didn’t find that in my corporate life or in my big law firm life.”
For more information: AxnerFriedman.com
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