Wednesday, September 16, 2015

          Krista Granen ’15 Selected As a Borchard Fellow in Law & Aging

          Granen’s fellowship project at Bay Area Legal Aid in San Jose focuses on income issues impacting the elderly.

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          As a teenager, Granen witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of elder abuse when her family discovered that a close relative had horribly mistreated her grandmother, who was afflicted with Alzheimer’s.

          In the years that followed, the tribulations her grandmother faced stuck with her as she started to contemplate her future.

          “My parents raised me with an interest in serving the public but my dad was a prosecutor and for the longest time that made me never want to be a lawyer,” mused Granen. After her father’s death several years ago, however, she started to contemplate a legal career and interned with JusticeCorps while an undergraduate at UC Berkeley. She enjoyed working with the low-income litigants and decided she wanted to help people through the practice of law.

          Once at UC Hastings, Granen started to focus on elder advocacy. “I’m a firm believer that you can be passionate about a topic in general but not necessarily be good at the work,” she said. To test her commitment, she devoted a great deal of time to exploring elder law. She spent a couple of semesters at UC Hastings’ Medical-Legal Partnership for Seniors Clinic (MLPS) where she conducted research and helped senior clients navigate matters involving consumer debt, estate planning and public benefits. She also advocated for elder abuse victims and researched public benefits at Legal Assistance for Seniors and performed investigative work and legal research to support the initiatives of Justice in Aging.

          At the urging of a few of her law professors, Granen applied for the Borchard Fellowship in Law & Aging last spring. The mission of the Borchard Foundation Center on Law & Aging is to improve the quality of life for elderly people, particularly those who are disadvantaged. Every year, the Foundation sponsors and oversees the work of a few recent law school graduates who desire to pursue an academic or legal career in elder law.

          “Krista is a true leader who is genuinely humble and limitlessly empathetic, yet also fierce and relentless in her advocacy for those in need,” said Professor Yvonne Troya, who supervised Granen during her time at MLPS. “She learned to spot the multiple overlapping legal issues that caused her older adult clients stress and tackled each one as she handled her clients’ cases from start to finish.”

          Granen’s fellowship project at Bay Area Legal Aid revolves around social security, which is her target population’s main source of income and benefits, and consumer protection, given the increasing number of financial fraud and abuse crimes perpetrated against senior citizens.

          In addition to providing direct services to clients during her fellowship, her primary goal is to launch a mobile clinic in Santa Clara County. “I noticed during my work at MLPS that seniors’ physical and mental capacities can be impaired when they’re exhausted from traveling, so I want to focus on meeting seniors where they’re at,” said Granen. She intends to visit assisted living communities, nursing homes and other facilities where the elderly live and congregate so that she can educate them on issues affecting their financial security.

          Although Granen has just started the fellowship and does not yet know what the future will bring, she hopes that the mobile clinic she establishes will last long after her fellowship has ended. Given her passion and determination, such an outcome seems well within reach.

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