Estate planning

Increasing diversity in the field of real estate planning


I have heard many discussions and presentations about the importance of increasing diversity in estate planning. But putting these ideas into practice isn’t always easy. While I was networking with colleagues at the Heckerling Institute for Estate Planning, I spoke with one attorney, Alan Gassman of Gassman Crotty & DiNicolo PA, who has created a program to increase diversity by partnering with Stetson University School of Law in Gulfport, Florida. , to establish a fellowship and award of the National Association for Estate Planning and Diversity. The goal of the program is to present estate planning and elder law as a viable career opportunity for students of color by enabling the selection of two students for a two-semester fellowship beginning in the fall of 2023. Each fellow will receive an award of $1,500 per semester. They will join the Estate Planning Council and be mentored by two members of that group. I asked Alan what motivated him to create the program and he explained the details. Here is his response:


Alain Gassman-headshot.jpegI had a very strong desire to contribute to diversity and to thank the National Association of Real Estate Planners and Boards (NAEPC) for the recent award that got me into the Hall of Fame, because when I started practicing law in Clearwater, Florida, in 1985, I couldn’t join certain clubs. Or participating in some law firm or event that, quite frankly, has given other professionals opportunities that I haven’t had. My thought was to provide the opportunities that I had found through my ability to join and be active in the Pinellas County Estate Planning Board to others who would not have those opportunities. So I joined the NAAPC Diversity Committee but could not find a clear path of behavior that I could engage in to achieve “diversity”.

Last summer, I taught a course on law firm management and professional achievement at Stetson Law School and met several students who did not come from wealthy or well-educated families and felt they could use interaction with the local estate planning board while they were at law. school.

After a few months of attending diversity committee meetings, I realized there was a natural need for students of color in law school to sit on estate planning boards and to mentor and nurture those students.

Law School Liaison

I contacted a professor at Stetson Law School who recently worked with my wife and I when we introduced a small, permanent awards program to help students attend their LLM. in tax program at the University of Florida. This same professor was involved in diversity arrangements and student support and liked the idea of ​​creating a fellowship. It allowed me to interact with the president, faculty sponsor of the Black Student League at Stetson, estate planning professor, and senior law professor. Everyone we spoke to at the school was not only enthusiastic, but supportive of the opportunity. However, they also explained that students needed financial assistance to justify spending time on this type of project and explained how students could obtain their required donated free hours by helping underprivileged people with estate planning as part of the arrangement.

Among the professors who have worked with me is Rebecca Morgan, who chairs the MA in Elderly Law. Program at Stetson is a highly respected author and editor, and Roberta Flowers, co-director of the Center of Excellence in Elderly Law at Stetson is a distinguished author and a member and leader of the National Academy of Elderly Law.

Student requirements

Students must commit to joining the Estate Planning Council and be approved by two mentors who are members of that group. We expect students to attend directors’ meetings preceding general meetings and general meetings themselves or preparatory meetings in other local councils and to meet and learn about the members and what they do. We started the Stetson Program with two students, so they could work together on this. We also ask them to use their required free hours to organize and deliver programs on estate planning for low-income communities or other groups that need assistance. They may also work on estate planning projects for our law firm as employees with a higher than normal hourly rate.

opportunities for students

Students will receive $3,000 each ($1,500 per semester per student), mentoring sessions, networking and leadership experience, contacts that may help them find their first jobs, immersion in estate planning law and related careers, and effective use. of their free hours. The ability to walk into a room of unfamiliar people, meet them, work with them, and get praise and encouragement from them can make a huge difference to the life of a law student and the thousands of people who would benefit from having new members in our group. estate planning community. Interactive Legal has also agreed to provide these students with access to their drafting platform and member courses as part of the Law School’s outreach program.

benefits for practitioners

Our law firm is getting kudos for being the donor to pay for this program and the satisfaction of helping to make this program together. Publicity will help us gain acceptance from students who are looking for writer and associate positions in law school and in our community. Estate planning boards now have a new purpose that is easy, inexpensive, and personally fulfilling for members who choose to be a mentor and supporter of these students. Undoubtedly, there will be friendships, learning about the community and other benefits that everyone involved will enjoy.

start a similar program

If someone is interested in starting a similar program with a law school in their community, They can just call or email me (email protected) I will be happy to provide all of the materials, summary agreement, and declarations we have agreed to at Stetson. I hope to have 50 of these programs in place by the end of 2024. Thanks to Marty Shenkman for agreeing to sponsor a Long Island student or students in the same way, and to the members of the NAAEPC Diversity Committee for their contributions and efforts. Wonderful intentions.


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