Retired BigLaw Attorneys Embrace New Clients in People-Oriented Public Service Jobs
Posted Oct 24, 2011 2:00 PM CST
By Martha Neil
When he left Dickstein Shapiro in 2004, James Springer was a top antitrust lawyer.
Now, working part-time for the D.C. Legal Aid Society, the 77-year-old attorney handles benefits claims. Working on Social Security claims is every bit as complex as his former practice area, he tells the National Law Journal.
And the job satisfaction is high: "I deal with real people," he tells the legal publication. "I've never been hugged by a client until I came to work for Legal Aid. I do this for myself as much as I do this for other people."
Springer is far from the only BigLaw attorney who has found such post-retirement work rewarding, among a growing legion of older lawyers starting new public service-oriented careers in their final years in practice.
Robert Bruskin, 65, a Howrey retiree, handles housing discrimination cases as senior counsel of the Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights.
And litigator Allen Snyder, a longtime foster parent who retired from Hogan & Hartson in 2001, is now working part-time in the nation's capital for the Children's Law Center, handling appellate matters concerning adoption and neglect cases, the NLJ reports.
As in other areas of the country, budgets are being cut for government and nonprofit programs in Washington, D.C. So two local legal groups banded together to institutionalize such efforts in a program known as SAILS—Senior Attorneys Initiative for Legal Services. Another option being promoted by the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program is for lawyers to work part-time on public interest matters during their final years in practice, as they are often reducing their portfolio of corporate clients.
"There is great unmet need in the community for pro bono service," Snyder said. "For a retiring lawyer, it is an opportunity to carve out a niche of the law that you care about. You can focus on the legal issues without focusing on economic factors."