In 2008, Lori Leu started a new chapter in her life. It was an endeavor that was unknown and new, but her heart and soul told her it was where she needed to be. After searching for purpose in the practice of law, Lori took her 20 years of litigation experience and opened an Elder Law practice in Plano. When she first opened the doors, Lori was on her own and on a mission to apply her legal knowledge to serve the community. Eight years later with over 2,000 families assisted, Lori A. Leu & Associates has transitioned to Leu & Peirce, PLLC, growing to three attorneys and a full staff ready to serve the community and help seniors and their families move into the next stage of life.
Since beginning the firm, Lori’s overriding goal has been to provide premium and dignified services to the clients, and that has continued through the compassion and love from all of the ladies at Leu & Peirce. “Seniors are often overlooked and unheard, but not here. No one asks to become disabled or to suffer the inevitable effects of aging,” says Lori. “Treating our clients with the respect and dignity they deserve is important to us.”
The attorneys and staff of Leu & Peirce know when they come to work every day that they will encounter someone who is in a crisis, trying to help a senior or disabled loved one and unsure of what help they need. The opportunity to make a positive impact on these families is what motivates them to bring compassion and love to their jobs in a way that is often not seen in a typical law office.
When you walk into the offices of Leu & Peirce, it doesn’t feel like a law firm. There is an inviting warmth that instantly makes visitors feel like a welcome guest in someone’s home. You enter the doors and are greeted by the friendly faces of Rhonda Connolly, Michaele Hayden, Lori Moore, and Melanie Simmons. They invite you into their home-away-from-home, offer you a cup of coffee, and chat with you like they have known you for a lifetime. But that’s only a small part of why clients feel comfortable bringing their family concerns to Leu & Peirce. Lori, Erin, and everyone at Leu & Peirce radiate empathy for their clients and genuine concern for their well-being.
Lori Leu began practicing law in 1987 in her home state of Kansas, following her graduation from Kansas State University and Harvard Law School. Lori moved to Dallas in 1989 and pursued a career in commercial litigation and telecommunications law. As Lori’s family grew, however, so did her dissatisfaction with her law practice. She began attending Perkins School of Theology at SMU, and over time determined that the best way for her to make a difference and to help others was through the practice of Elder Law. So, in 2008, Lori took a chance, changed her focus, and began devoting her practice to serving seniors and their families.
Lori is honored to be one of the few attorneys in the country to carry the title of Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA). The National Elder Law Foundation is the only national organization certifying practitioners in Elder Law. Frequently referred to as the “gold standard” for Elder Law and special needs practitioners, the CELA certification requires an attorney to have substantially focused his or her practice in the Elder Law/special needs field for several years and requires the passage of a rigorous written examination. “Lori’s dedication to learning, her ability to think outside the box, and proficiency in Elder Law issues inspires me everyday. I am so proud of her and what she’s accomplished,” says Erin. “I am honored to be a part of her dream.”
Erin Peirce, a proud graduate of Texas A&M University and the South Texas College of Law, began working with Lori A. Leu & Associates in 2011 and recently joined Lori as a shareholder in Leu & Peirce, PLLC. “The opportunity to work with and learn from Lori has been an unbelievable experience,” says Erin. “The ability to help seniors and their families has been life-changing and there is no doubt in my mind that this is where I should be and what I should be doing.” Erin started her legal career as a litigation paralegal after graduating from Texas A&M in 2001. Wanting to learn more about the legal profession and expand her knowledge, Erin took a chance and jumped into law school at South Texas College of Law in Houston, Texas. After practicing commercial litigation for four years, a mutual acquaintance introduced Erin to Lori. “The moment I met Lori, I knew she was something special,” says Erin. “I didn’t know it at the time, but meeting Lori would change my life forever.” In 2011, Erin joined Lori on her mission and discovered a purpose in life. “Until I met Lori and learned about Elder Law, I never knew that practicing law could be not only my career, but my passion,” says Erin.
The newest addition to the legal team is Lauren Olson. Lauren is a Plano native, graduate of Saint Louis University, and 2013 graduate from the SMU Dedman School of Law. As soon as she joined the firm, Lauren quickly became an integral part of Leu & Peirce. “Lauren fit right in from the very beginning,” says Erin. “Her desire to give back and support the community has made her an indispensible asset to our team.” Lauren’s service to the disability community through the AmeriCorps volunteer program, as well as her board membership with the Dallas Women’s Lawyers’ Association, supports Lori and Erin’s passion for service and advocacy of seniors. “I went to law school with the dream of becoming a public-interest lawyer, but quickly encountered the obstacles a legal career can impose against that ambition. The amazing opportunity to join Lori and Erin’s mission of serving seniors and those with disabilities right out of law school made my public-interest dreams an immediate reality.”
Along with their dedicated support staff, Lori, Erin, and Lauren focus all of their energy on making the legal aspects of aging easier for their clients. The emerging practice of Elder Law encompasses a variety of legal challenges experienced by seniors and their families, as well as those with special needs. Instead of focusing merely on a type of law, Elder Law attorneys focus on a type of client: seniors, those with disabilities, and their families. Elder law includes complex issues, such as guardianships for people who have become incapacitated and can no longer care for or protect themselves; long-term care planning to safeguard against financial ruin; estate planning to ensure proper documents are in place so seniors can have the assistance they may need in making financial and health care decisions and that their wishes are honored after they die; applications for public benefits; and assistance with probate administration after a loved one passes away. In many cases, options are limited by finances or family circumstances, but everyone at Leu & Peirce is committed to serving the unique needs of each client.
When seeking the assistance of Leu & Peirce, clients are often unaware of their needs. After consulting with the attorneys, clients leave empowered with knowledge on public benefits, such as Medicaid, SSI and Veteran’s benefits, as well as probate, guardianships, and estate planning. “The information we provide can be overwhelming, but our clients leave with a peace of mind that they can help their loved ones transition into the next stage of life,” says Erin.
A primary goal of Leu & Peirce is to educate and empower the community on Elder Law issues. Lori’s mission from the beginning of her Elder Law practice has been to provide as much education as people are willing to hear, and Erin and Lauren have adopted that mission. This endeavor is not without its challenges, though. “Many adult children don’t know the issues they will face when a parent becomes ill or injured,” says Lori. “Those in the Sandwich Generation, like myself, are so busy with the daily demands of raising children that they often don’t see the need or just don’t have the time to educate themselves on situations they have not yet encountered.” And, unfortunately, there is a great deal of misinformation provided by “professionals” who are either misguided or misinformed. Providing services to seniors has become a growing area for those looking to profit. “With 10,000 Americans turning 65 every day through the year 2029, there are a lot of people out there who see the growing senior population as an easy target,” laments Erin. “As a result, seniors and their families are often given incorrect information that benefits the person offering the services more than the seniors.” The attorneys at Leu & Peirce strongly believe that arming yourself with accurate information can help ward off those seeking to profit from the aging Baby Boomer generation. Therefore, they speak as often as they can to community organizations, church groups, caregiver groups, and associations of attorneys and other professionals who may not be aware of the specific issues that affect their aging clients. “Education and community outreach are key to our practice,” says Lauren. “Being part of a team that prioritizes the needs of the community has been an amazing opportunity.”
Supporting causes and being involved in organizations that affect their clients, including the Parkinson Voice Project and the Alzheimer’s Association, is part of the Leu & Peirce mission. Under the leadership of legal assistant and marketing director, Melanie Simmons, Leu & Peirce continues to serve as chair of the sponsorship committee for the Collin County Walk to End Alzheimer’s and on the Collin County Advisory Committee to assist the Alzheimer’s Association in planning educational events. “I really enjoy the opportunity to be part of an effort to give back to the generation that has done so much for us,” says Melanie. “People with dementia have had their voice taken from them. All of us working together can be their voice and help care for them in the way they deserve.”
Lori also participates in the Speaker’s Bureau for the Alzheimer’s Association and as a recurring speaker for dementia caregiver groups and AARP. Fulfilling their desire to learn, Lori, Erin and Lauren are members of several professional groups, and Lori and Erin have served on the Boards of the Estate Planning Council of North Texas and the Estate Planning and Probate Section of the Collin County Bar Association. Lori was also recently appointed to the Boards for the Texas chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and the Wellness Center for Older Adults, which serves Collin County and surrounding areas. “The more we can be involved in organizations that educate us and help our clients, the better advocates we can be for them,” emphasizes Lori. “Supporting our clients, both during our work day and in our free time, is part of how we are living our lives with purpose.”
When you walk through the doors of Leu & Peirce, you are welcomed into a law firm like no other. Lori, Erin, Lauren, and the ladies of Leu & Peirce have a common goal to make a difference in the community and to provide compassion, information, and legal advice to those who need it the most. Their dedication to the community and unique understanding of the complex legal issues families may be facing make Leu & Peirce an exception to the rule in the legal world. Lori’s mission and purpose that was once a dream has become a reality.