How does a lawyer with a commercial law background end up practicing this unique specialty of elder law? Marsha Goodman, a Certified Elder Law Attorney in Arizona, describes the road she took to Life Care Planning.
A native of Washingtonville, New York, Marsha Goodman graduated summa cum laude from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and earned her law degree from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in Nashville. “I was in Tim’s law school class at Vanderbilt,” laughed Marsha, referring to Tim Takacs, the Tennessee-based attorney who devised the Life Care Planning approach to elder law and has taught more than 200 attorneys nationwide how to practice it.
After law school, Marsha practiced general and commercial law in Grand Rapids, Michigan before leaving Michigan and the practice of law to launch an office furniture distribution business in Phoenix, AZ that eventually grew to more than 100 employees. All the while, Marsha toyed with the idea of returning to the law. “I realized that I wanted to practice law to serve seniors,” she remembered.
She sold her business in early 2008, took the Arizona Bar Exam and then set out to learn more about elder law. An attorney taught her the basics. As she was putting her recommendations into place, she opened her Vanderbilt alumni magazine one day and saw an article about a former classmate who had invented a new way to practice elder law. “It was Tim!” she recalled. “I read the article and knew right away that Life Care Planning was the kind of elder law that I wanted to practice.”
Marsha wrote to her old classmate, telling him of her interest. Tim invited her to attend Life Care Planning Fundamentals and Practice, a workshop that teaches attorneys how to launch, manage, and grow a Life Care Planning law practice. “Before attending the workshop, I didn’t have much in the way of a clientele,” said Marsha, “but during the class I could see how valuable my business experience could be in building a thriving elder law firm.”
After attending the attorney training, Marsha visited Tim and his staff in their Hendersonville, Tennessee location to see a Life Care Planning Firm in operation. She was inspired. By November 2008, she had launched her own firm, working out of the guest room in her home. By the middle of the following year, she moved into a small office, and by 2012, her firm had expanded into an executive suite in Phoenix. “My husband was a big help as the business was starting,” noted Marsha. “He handled all the back-office tasks like billing, payables and practice management.”
In 2014, Marsha was approached by Frazer, Ryan, Goldberg & Arnold, a Phoenix law firm that wanted to expand its elder law practice. “I was at the point where I was going to have to hire more people and it made a lot of sense to leverage that firm’s existing staff to grow my practice,” said Marsha, who recently hired an associate attorney. “I have a lot of independence and am essentially running a Life Care Planning Law Firm inside a larger firm.”