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The New Adventures of Older Lawyers


Why, when I was a young whippersnapper, we had respect for our elders. The silver-haired among us were seen as vaults of accumulated wisdom, as mentors with lifetimes of lessons to share. But in today's youth-obsessed culture, those in their 70s and up sometimes seem to be all but invisible.

So it is rejuvenating to see that October has brought two separate appreciations of the more senior members of the legal profession. The first comes via the online magazine Slate, which has compiled 80 Over 80, its listing of the most powerful octogenarians in America. In a world of lists that more typically celebrate those under 30 or at most 40, Slate's selections seem almost seditious.

While the list draws from across the worlds of arts, business, politics and other professions, it includes a handful of lawyers, each named for having "remained influential into their ninth decade and beyond." The lawyers on the list (and their rankings) are:

    2. John Paul Stevens, 89, Supreme Court justice.
    3. Daniel Inouye, 85, Hawaii's senior U.S. senator.
    10. Robert Byrd, 91, West Virginia's senior U.S. senator.
    12. William H. Gates Sr., 83, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
    28. John Dingell, 83, U.S. representative from Michigan.
    36. Joe Jamail, 84, "the King of Torts."
    47. Ralph Hall, 86, U.S. representative from Texas.
    60. Harry, Pregerson, 86, 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge.
    67. Bob Dole, 86, former Senate majority leader.
    69. Phyllis Schlafly, 85, conservative political activist.
    77. Robert Morgenthau, 90, Manhattan district attorney.

Meanwhile, lawyer and blogger Gary Gwilliam notches it down a decade, from lawyers in their 80s to those in their 70s. Gwilliam is an accomplished trial lawyer with Gwilliam Ivary Chiosso Cavalli & Brewer in Oakland, Calif., who also works as a mentor to lawyers who face personal or professional struggles. On his blog, he has started a series in which he profiles trial lawyers successful into their 70s -- a new generation of old warriors, as he calls them.

So far, Gwilliam has posted two such profiles, of Browne Greene, 73, partner with the Santa Monica, Calif., firm Greene Broillet & Wheeler, and of Stanley K. Jacobs, 73, partner with Jacobs Jacobs & Eisfelder in Los Angeles. Jacobs tells Gwilliam that he is a better trial lawyer now than when he was a young man. Why? A huge factor, he says, is the "irreplaceable" value of experience. Take that, all you whippersnappers.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 23, 2009 at 03:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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