Remembering TCPaul, 2016-2019

How Long Can an Attorney Competently Practice?

I know this varies based on health/ mental acuity, but what jd4hire04/24/19
Until death. avalanchediode04/24/19
Harper Lee's sister (Alice Lee) practiced law well into her catwoman33304/24/19
Murray Shusterman, 104, lawyer, philanthropist by Bonnie L. jackofspeed04/24/19
Big law firms that have a mandatory retirement age won’t h themapmaster04/25/19
I think it depends a lot on the workload - 60 hour a week gr flharfh04/25/19
I think older attorneys just tend to be lousier. They didn†jorgedeclaro04/25/19
We have a sort of respect or power inertia in our society. superttthero04/25/19
Old dogs can learn new tricks. I know a guy well into his 80 onehell04/25/19
I think that most old dogs can learn new tricks, but very fe superttthero04/25/19
Yes, there is a powerful incentive to just do things the way onehell04/25/19
some people stay sharp their entire lives some people were dingbat04/25/19
I agree with onehell and dingbat. It always amazes me how catwoman33304/25/19
Plus well, it's LAW lol. The most stodgy and old-fashioned p onehell04/26/19
My feelings expressed in this thread (and I think of most ot superttthero04/28/19
lawyers will start working well past retirement age and as l whiteguyinchina04/26/19
Until the wheels fall off. isthisit04/26/19
I plan on doing visas, at least on a part-time basis, until shithead04/26/19
I plan on doing PI "slip and fall" in nursing homes when I'm catwoman33304/28/19
I want to practice until at least 70, longer if I can. My cacrimdefense04/28/19
How long can an attorney practice? Well, my former boss patenttrollnj05/02/19
I plan to go out of full time in my sixties. Part time until jmoney05/02/19

jd4hire (Apr 24, 2019 - 2:48 pm)

I know this varies based on health/ mental acuity, but what are general thoughts? My career will change significantly once my boss retires. They're 70, sharp and pretty fit. Works on very high-value cases. Has trimmed caseload that they personally work on but litigates with vigor.

Definitely not saying I want them gone as I'm learning tons and they bring in huge cases. But how long can one do this? 75, 80?

What do you think average retirement age is for litigators?

Reply
avalanchediode (Apr 24, 2019 - 5:15 pm)

Until death.

Reply
catwoman333 (Apr 24, 2019 - 5:23 pm)

Harper Lee's sister (Alice Lee) practiced law well into her 90s. It depends on the person. If you still have mental acuity and physical stamina, age shouldn't be an issue.

Reply
jackofspeed (Apr 24, 2019 - 7:01 pm)

Murray Shusterman, 104, lawyer, philanthropist
by Bonnie L. Cook, Staff Writer, Posted: December 6, 2016 - 6:20 PM

8 decade legal career.

Reply
themapmaster (Apr 25, 2019 - 11:26 am)

Big law firms that have a mandatory retirement age won’t have any higher than 75. I think 75 is as good as a watershed moment as any age is

Reply
flharfh (Apr 25, 2019 - 12:05 pm)

I think it depends a lot on the workload - 60 hour a week grind, or something like 20 hours with only a few files?

Personally though I would not trust an attorney in their 80s to do more than come into the office once a week or so and schmooze with established clients or act as a mentor/consultant to the firm's younger lawyers.

Reply
jorgedeclaro (Apr 25, 2019 - 12:24 pm)

I think older attorneys just tend to be lousier. They didn’t have the research tools we have now and they didn’t have the word processing tools either. So for the most part, they never learned how to write a brief or a motion. On top of that, most lawyers are pretty bad at their jobs and the public is pretty lousy at discerning a good lawyer from a bad one. So there’s a whole stock of old attorneys who just kind of failed up.

In jury trials, you can keep going for quite a while so long as you’re likable and know how to cross examine. But that’s like 5% of lawyering at most.

Reply
superttthero (Apr 25, 2019 - 12:42 pm)

We have a sort of respect or power inertia in our society.

It's amazing how outright senile or unqualified people can run whole companies because of the power/position they arrived at when they were saner, because times were different, or because they were born on third.

A lot of older attorneys are "effective" because they know the ropes and are given deference... not because they write or argue well anymore. Now, of course there are brilliant older attorneys, but what I am describing here is not exclusive to law.

Reply
onehell (Apr 25, 2019 - 2:27 pm)

Old dogs can learn new tricks. I know a guy well into his 80s who has really embraced the digital era and can redline a document or search for stuff on westlaw just fine. Carries his ipad everywhere, learned to e-file, all that.

As long as you're of sound mind, physically able to at least talk and type, and recognize that you're going to have to keep learning and can't just stubbornly insist on practicing as if it were 1955, there's no reason you can't competently practice until you drop dead.

Don't know why you'd want to (unless it's just an occasional case you take just to keep the grey matter active) but heck, you might have an inherent advantage because adversaries and judges will instinctively take it easy on you. No one wants to stress you out, give you a heart attack and end up with it on their conscience if you keel over in the courtroom or board room.

Reply
superttthero (Apr 25, 2019 - 2:34 pm)

I think that most old dogs can learn new tricks, but very few try, particularly after "making it." The system is set up to let them rest on their laurels and give them deference.

Reply
onehell (Apr 25, 2019 - 2:46 pm)

Yes, there is a powerful incentive to just do things the way you know how to do them and to either resist change or push off anything you're not used to, to underlings.

Seen examples of that too. Before law school I paralegaled for this old dude who was highly resistant to change. No computer in his office, he dictated everything (onto tapes which would be used with those foot-pedal machines of course). Support staff had (ancient) computers but they weren't connected to the internet.

There was one computer in the copy room (also ancient) that could connect but it was a dialup connection, which was pretty obsolete for a business office in a big city even in the early oughts.

Couple times a day, the secretary had to go to that computer, download his email, print it out and give it to him. Then, like everything else, he would dictate his responses which had to go back and forth like any letter with corrections, and then finally the secretary would log back in and type up the response to the email.

If you have the resources to have that kind of support staff, and are well-respected enough that clients are willing to put up with your idiosyncratic/retro style, then you can probably get away with that kind of crap for a long time, especially in law which can be more stuffy and old-fashioned than many other professions to begin with. Heck, I think we're one of the last occupations around where people still regularly wear suits. But eventually, I agree that old people who stubbornly refuse to learn new ways of doing things will find that their competence is impacted even if they are otherwise of sound mind.

Reply
dingbat (Apr 25, 2019 - 2:46 pm)

some people stay sharp their entire lives
some people were born dull
According to science, most people's mental faculties* generally keep improving into their early thirties, and start declining around the late thirties



*note that there are different kinds of mental faculties, with some peaking earlier than others. Apparently, processing speed peaks much earlier, then memory, followed by emotional understanding, and finally and crystallized intelligence peaks last.

Reply
catwoman333 (Apr 25, 2019 - 7:45 pm)

I agree with onehell and dingbat.

It always amazes me how much ignorance, fear, and, frankly, blatant, open bigotry exists about age in the legal community--a profession that always proclaims its passion for "fighting for justice". The great irony is almost EVERYONE eventually gets old and declines in physical and mental acuity. Nature has a great sense of humor...:).

Reply
onehell (Apr 26, 2019 - 8:17 pm)

Plus well, it's LAW lol. The most stodgy and old-fashioned profession on Earth.

We're the only schmucks still wearing suits on a regular basis. We still publish all manner of notices in the newspaper even though no one reads newspapers. State courts are STILL lagging on mandatory e-filing. The rules of evidence technically still have the freaking best evidence rule, which was literally invented to deal with scrivener errors when scribes made copies by hand in the 1700s. We still import significance to arcane rituals like taking oaths and notarizing documents. Our worship of precedent means we may spend a lot of our time fighting about the meaning of words written by persons long-dead from eras bearing no resemblance to our time, and a trial is still primarily oriented around the idea that it is basically a succession of witnesses whose credibility is evaluated by a jury. The law school curriculum has not changed in any fundamental way since Langdell invented the socratic case method it in the late 1800s.

If any profession should be hospitable to old-timers, it would be law. Honestly, it's kindof a miracle we're not still wearing powdered wigs.

Reply
superttthero (Apr 28, 2019 - 1:21 pm)

My feelings expressed in this thread (and I think of most other people here too) apply to all fields... not just the legal field.

Reply
whiteguyinchina (Apr 26, 2019 - 1:10 am)

lawyers will start working well past retirement age and as long as they can due to the poor financial situation in legal profession

Reply
isthisit (Apr 26, 2019 - 8:12 am)

Until the wheels fall off.

Reply
shithead (Apr 26, 2019 - 9:19 pm)

I plan on doing visas, at least on a part-time basis, until senility or death.

Reply
catwoman333 (Apr 28, 2019 - 12:46 am)

I plan on doing PI "slip and fall" in nursing homes when I'm living in one. Easy access to clients...:).

Reply
cacrimdefense (Apr 28, 2019 - 4:59 pm)

I want to practice until at least 70, longer if I can.

My father lived into his late 70's and my mother into her late 80's. When my dad checked out, he had most of his marbles (he complained about memory loss and lack of recall speed for the last 12 years of his life), however, my mother began to suffer from dementia a few months after he passed. If Mom's fate befalls me, that'll (obviously) be the end of my courtroom career.

I guess it really depend on your genes and the quality of medical care you receive. Two of my friends from H.S. have fathers who built their own firms (35 lawyers, bankruptcy, and about a dozen lawyers, civil lit. defense) and still work p/t. Both attorney are closing in on 80.

Reply
patenttrollnj (May 2, 2019 - 12:18 am)

How long can an attorney practice?

Well, my former boss is now in his mid-70s, and he plans to keep working as long as he can. He's reasonably competent and keeps-up with technology.

I've encountered quite a few attorneys in their 70s, and they've all been "with it."

Reply
jmoney (May 2, 2019 - 12:57 am)

I plan to go out of full time in my sixties. Part time until I lose every marble. Die an active member of the bar.

Reply
Post a message in this thread