Shirley B. Whitenack grew up wanting to be a teacher.

That’s what she studied during her undergraduate college years. But when she graduated, few teaching jobs were available. While studying for the real estate exam as a fall back, she fell in love with the law.

Today, Whitenack is a partner at Schenck, Price, Smith & King, LLP. She is co-chair of the firm’s elder and special needs law practice group and the estates and trusts litigation practice group, and has found a way to feed her passion for teaching.

Tonight, she’ll be recognized for excellence in continuing legal education when the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE), in conjunction with the New Jersey State Bar Association, presents her with the 2017 Alfred C. Clapp Award.

“The concept of continuing legal education, whether it was mandatory or not, has always been important,” Whitenack said. “Being so involved with NJICLE let me meld my love of teaching with my practice area in the law.”

Whitenack is a former member of the NJICLE Board of Trustees, has spoken at over 40 seminars, and is always willing to lend her expertise to colleagues. She not only volunteers to speak, but has also suggested programs in developing areas of the law that have become regular and popular offerings at NJICLE. Whitenack is also a past president of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.

“I started out my practice as a commercial litigator in a large firm,” she recalled. “When I was an associate I started doing estate and trust litigation. That segued into doing guardianship and elder law planning. I found it particularly rewarding to be able to help families and individuals with their specific problems.”

Whitenack noted that her specialty was unique because “elder law focuses on the people it serves rather than the actual practice areas.” In addition, she said, with the aging population of Baby Boomers, “there are more opportunities to help people who now need help.” The same, she said, is true of people with special needs.

“Once upon a time there was a stigma,” she said. “Now people are much more open about that and trying to get help for their living, quality of life, housing.”

Whitenack said that she spent many years helping choose the Clapp award winner as part of the NJICLE committee. Now, she said, she is surprised and “thrilled beyond belief that I am being recognized in this way.”

Excellence in CLE

This year’s honorees will be recognized at a reception to be held from 6-8 p.m. at the Law Center in New Brunswick. For more information, visit


2017 Alfred C. Clapp Award:

Shirley B. Whitenack

Distinguished Service Awards:

  • New Jersey Supreme Court Justice Anne M. Patterson
  • Former American Bar Association President Paulette Brown
  • Carol Johnston, of the Administrative Office of the Courts
  • Steven Mignogna