When Gina Shaffer’s pathway to becoming a private Christian school teacher took an unexpected turn, she found herself at a law firm working as a legal secretary and actually liking it. Despite her undergraduate degree in Biblical Studies with a focus in Christian Education, she soon realized she didn’t want to pursue her original dream of teaching. She wanted to pursue the law. In Williamsport, Pa., she became a paralegal, and continued as a paralegal in Atlanta. After three years, Shaffer returned to Bel Air in search of a greater challenge. The president of her alma mater, Eastern Christian College, suggested she work with him while pursuing a law degree.
“I was 37 years old and starting law school,” Shaffer recalls. “He said if I came to work with him, we could work around my course schedule.” She accepted the offer, and began the master’s program at the University of Baltimore. The next year, she was accepted into the University of Baltimore’s Law School, and ultimately earned her license to practice law in Maryland in December 2001.
Shaffer landed a job with a small firm whose clients primarily needed trusts, wills and retirement planning. “After seeing the way these people were treated, I knew I could make a difference for them,” Shaffer says. She found her specialization in eldercare law. The small firm merged with Miles & Stockbridge, where Shaffer remained for two years, honing her skills.
In 2003, Shaffer decided to go out on her own and set up shop in an incubator-type office environment in Bel Air, but she soon realized she needed her own space. Business started out with a bang, and within two years, she hired four additional people. “I think I was successful because I had developed a gift for helping older people,” she says. “I can help place people in nursing homes, and I help with any other senior issues, including understanding Medicaid. I meet with children of seniors, and I assist in creating guardianships and medical directives. It’s all about helping the individuals and the people behind them.”
Shaffer also encounters elderly people who have been financially exploited by a family member or friend because proper planning was not in place. “These people have been taken advantage of at their most vulnerable. You’d be amazed at how they are treated and by whom,” Shaffer says.
Her business has now grown to a team of 11 – five attorneys and six support employees – after partnering with attorneys Eric McLauchlin and Brad Stover to form Shaffer, McLauchlin & Stover LLC in 2011. Together, the attorneys have expertise in elder care and estate planning, real estate, business planning, business development and related legal services.
As client needs often overlap in areas of expertise, the team at Shaffer, McLauchlin & Stover strives to build a solid bond with clients and collaborate with each other on designing and implementing legal strategies. Setting goals for herself and her practice, Shaffer passionately discusses her plans to continue growing her practice and sharing her knowledge with elderly people who need it. “I hope to expand to help more low-income people, and have more opportunities to educate the population about aging and how it affects families.”
Aptly describing herself as “compassionate,” Shaffer proves her point in words and deed. From stories of advocating for clients to proactive community involvement, Shaffer has made her mark in the eldercare world. She has established a fund at the Community Foundation of Harford County for caregivers who may need financial assistance to take a respite from their day-to-day caregiving responsibilities. The Shaffer-Leinhard Caregivers Support Fund enables grants for this purpose, offering much-needed relief from the responsibilities of 24/7 care.
In her spare time, Shaffer enjoys ballroom and Latin dancing, watching the Washington Nationals and spending time outdoors. She is an avid bike rider, and she likes walking, hiking and playing golf. She hopes to retire to her condominium in Lewes, Del., where she plans to volunteer, visit nursing homes and provide baked goods for the elderly. “I want to bring joy to seniors and people who need it – people who have no one,” she says. As she enthusiastically relates a story of how she recently visited a nursing home and danced with the residents, she explains, “I want to bring them fun and provide them with a relationship.” I95
Gina D. Shaffer, Esq.