WSBA ELDER LAW SECTION
by Sage Graves
Over his distinguished 40-year career, Peter Greenfield worked tirelessly to serve Washington’s senior popula- tion. To honor Peter’s work in advoca- cy and his active participation in the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA), the WSBA Elder Law Section created the Peter Greenfield Senior Advocacy Internship and established a fund to sustain it.
Prior to his retirement in 2010 from Columbia Legal
Services (CLS), Peter worked on behalf of the thousands
of seniors and others living in poverty in Washington.
Despite the efforts of attorneys and advocates like Peter,
low-income seniors in Washington receive assistance for
less than a quarter of their legal problems. As the size
of Washington’s older population continues to grow, the
need for continuing legal advocacy on behalf of vulnerable seniors only becomes more urgent. The Peter Greenfield Senior Advocacy Internship is a vehicle for increasing awareness of, and interest in, the practice of elder law
on behalf of low-income clients.
Peter earned his J.D. in 1970 from the University of
Chicago Law School, where
he received a National Honor
Scholarship for all three years
and the Edwin F. Mandel Award
for his work in the school’s legal
aid clinic. Over his noteworthy
career, Peter Greenfield accumulated a wealth of knowledge
on a number of legal issues that
directly affect Washington’s
Inspiring a New
The Peter Greenfield Senior
senior population. These include long-term care, substitute decision-making, economic security, and basic needs such as housing
In 2005, Peter and others started a collaborative effort to make
public guardianship services available in Washington, a goal that
had long eluded advocates in Washington. Peter served as chair
of the WSBA Elder Law Section’s Public Guardianship Task Force,
which issued a report urging the Legislature to address the unmet need of incapacitated adults who had no resources to pay for
guardianship and no family or friends to volunteer as guardians.
By 2007, the Washington Office of Public Guardianship (OPG)
began to provide guardianship services for low-income, incapacitated individuals who otherwise had no one to serve in a volunteer
capacity. Peter also worked to restore funding in 2009 when a budget crisis threatened to defund the OPG.
Peter also spearheaded the development of the CLS “Senior
Bulletins and Pamphlets,” materials that continue to be relied
upon by elder law attorneys across the state who depend on the
timely and complicated legal information conveyed in an easy-to-understand format. Peter developed and maintained these invaluable materials with the input of legal services attorneys, volunteer
lawyers in private practice, and staff members of state and federal
agencies. Now seniors, families, and professionals can go to www.
washingtonlawhelp.org/issues/aging-elder-law to find an abundance of helpful information on a variety of legal issues, including
elder abuse, financial exploitation, guardianships, powers of attorney, wills and estate planning, and Social Security benefits.
Peter is not only known for his professional accomplishments,
The Peter Greenfield Senior Advocacy Summer
but also for his ability to make a lasting personal impact on the
committees for which he served. Dick Sayre, of Sayre, Sayre & Fos-
sum, recalls, “When Peter joined the [WSBA Elder Law Section]
Executive Committee, it was our common practice to have a work-
ing lunch, so much so we had a lunch agenda. Peter considered
this uncivilized, and held out for convivial lunch time where we in-
teracted with each other … we all enjoy our personal time together
during lunch, and our relationships are better for it.”
Now retired, Peter said that he is “better exercised and less
sleep-deprived than [he has] been since high school.” He has found
that a large and satisfying part of his retirement has been spent in
more relaxed and meaningful time with family and friends.
In an effort to honor Peter’s work and encourage a new generation
of elder law advocates to pick up where he left off, the WSBA Elder
Law Section Executive Committee (Executive Committee) created
the Peter Greenfield Senior Advocacy Internship. The position provides an intern with the opportunity to advocate for low-income
seniors through legal research, writing, community education, and
other types of advocacy.
To ensure that students from each of Washington’s three law
schools have the opportunity to partake in the Peter Greenfield
Senior Advocacy Summer Internship, the scholarship is offered to
students at each law school on a rotating basis. Interns work in
CLS’s Seattle office for 10-12 weeks in the summer and receive a
$5,000 stipend funded primarily by the WSBA Elder Law Section.