'Rip Van Winkle' Rejoins Aviation Firm After 7 Years as a High School Teacher

A founding partner of a San Mateo, Calif., law firm who took a seven-year detour from his legal career to teach algebra at a public high school is now back in practice there again.

Jim Collins, 57, has rejoined the O’Reilly Law Firm, which is now known as O’Reilly || Collins, and is finding everything much the same … yet different.

“I feel like Rip Van Winkle,” he tells the ABA Journal, noting that the office furniture, music and staff are the same, yet everyone has, of course, aged during his absence. Office technology has also changed considerably in the meantime, he notes: “The computer is a lot faster, I have to say, the screens are bigger, there’s no dictation any more—everything’s on e-mail.”

The departure of another longtime partner from the small firm around the same time that his longtime partner and friend, Terry O’Reilly, was undergoing treatment for a temporary health problem prompted his sudden switch back to a full-time legal career at the beginning of the summer, Collins says. But, he hastens to add, he’s enjoying running the firm again and plans to stay as long as O’Reilly is there, which he expects to be at least another five years.

His seven-year detour into a teaching career followed a path blazed by his wife. She left legal practice to focus on their children and then become a high school teacher a few years before he did, Collins recounts.

His transition to law practice has been smooth, he says, helped by his familiarity with the way the office works and the expertise of two excellent associates.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and the cases are the same,” he says of the firm’s aviation and motor vehicle accident practice. “You still need to just pick up the phone and call the other side and work things out.”

Hat tip: PR Newswire.

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