When Nancy Rice, now a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA), began her legal career in 1986, there was no such thing as elder law.
As a new attorney, Rice found herself working in the estates and trust department of a large South Jersey law firm, and was still there a few years later while pregnant with her first child. Armed with specialized experience in an emerging field and a computer—in the late ’80s, she already recognized the value of technology in juggling the roles of mom and lawyer —she established her own law practice in 1991.
The early years of Rice’s career helped her develop a “pretty unique specialty.”
“Lawyers have always handled estates and trusts, but then we started getting questions like what happens if a client needs to go into a nursing home, because Medicare will not pay for it,” Rice says. “I was the youngest attorney in the department, so they told me to learn it. And I did.”
The ability to make a direct, positive impact on her clients’ lives drew Rice right in.
“People are under phenomenal stress when a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, which is the most common situation we deal with. We can really help people with our expertise, really interact with people and do good things,” she explains.
When she had her second child, Rice was grateful for the professional and parental balance of her own practice. Today, Rice Elder Law is in its 30th year and still putting families first.
Nine years ago, Rice was joined by Pamela Quattrone, who was introduced to her through a mutual acquaintance as “one of the smartest people he had ever met”—an assessment she heartily echoes.
Shortly after leaving the practice of corporate law at a big law firm in Philadelphia, Quattrone’s in-laws asked her to handle their estate planning. “I knew enough to know that I should not touch this … so I called Nancy,” Quattrone recalls. “Nancy graciously agreed to do it for free, but only if I did the work. I did it, and I loved it.”
Like Rice, Quattrone also prioritized balancing a legal career with a family. Also like Rice, she realized that elder law let her help clients get to the other side of complicated issues.
“This really helps people—it directly impacts their lives, their homes, their life savings,” says Quattrone, also a CELA.
She and Rice have developed a strong professional relationship reflecting their mutual desire to cultivate a supportive environment. They have also surrounded themselves with like-minded women to support their practice. “Our scheduling and billing coordinator, Cathy Verdone, has practically run the office from her home in Illinois while raising five boys,” says Rice.
Although Rice typically works out of the firm’s Linwood office and Quattrone in Cherry Hill, “[w]e talk to each other all the time about any number of things,” Rice says. “That always benefits clients.”
The practice has been especially busy, partly because elder law is not what Rice calls a “one-and-done” specialty. “I have 35 years working with clients who come back or refer friends and family,” she explains.
Quattrone adds that the early days of the pandemic amplified certain issues: “People got scared and started thinking about their own mortality. … They were afraid to transition their loved ones into assisted living or nursing facilities, so they were faced with how to manage their care at home. Families struggled with how to advocate and check up on their loved ones without the ability to visit them in facilities. Many even contemplated bringing them home.”
And while being tech-savvy means that Rice Elder Law was able to easily handle the uptick in work, Rice and Quattrone are looking to add a new attorney to their practice.
They are looking for a sharp, younger lawyer who enjoys outside-the-box thinking, agrees that family always comes first and, if possible, is experienced in elder law.
“What we do involves a lot of tax law, which makes most lawyers run the other way,” Rice admits. “The bottom line is that we work with numbers. There are tax calculations, and we have to understand a client’s finances, their investments, their insurance. We do that because we may be the only ones who can tell them certain things about what they have and what that means for their long-term plans.”
Quattrone adds that it is not just about navigating complex laws and issues: “You have to be able to break it down in a way that someone who is stressed to the max and going through an emotional situation can understand. Most of all, clients have to trust us and trust that we know what we are doing.”
In the end, Rice and Quattrone want someone who is devoted to helping others and excited about the work, just like they are.
“I am really privileged to be able to help people maneuver these challenges,” Rice says.
“My uncle recently said ‘Don’t you hate Sundays?’ and I said ‘No! I love my job,’” says Quattrone. “I’m excited for Monday just like I’m excited for weekends with my family.”
Rice Elder Law
Cherry Hill: (856) 673-0048
Linwood: (609) 398-3447