Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Never Too Old to Practice Law

When do lawyers typically retire?  BIDER readers know, the answer is never.  Now, this general premise will be made law because BigLaw Octogenarian Partners are fighting back.  Large law firms across the country have a policy of forced retirement to make way for new blood.  Until today, no one has challenged this policy.  But I guess even the old timers are starving for cash, so they're not taking it anymore:
When attorney Eugene D'Ablemont turned 70, the New York law firm where he had worked for four decades stripped him of his financial stake under a policy designed to encourage older partners to retire....
In January the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Kelley Drye & Warren on Mr. D'Ablemont's behalf, accusing the law firm of violating age-discrimination laws. Three years ago, the EEOC settled a similar suit against Sidley Austin, which agreed to pay $27.5 million to 32 ex-partners, many of whom the agency claims were demoted because of their age.
Because those cases ended in settlement, the issue of whether old rich partners are protected by age discrimination laws remains unresolved.

Even Indian Lawyers don't quit.

And are these geezers being selfish?  Actually, I had no idea how much their salaries decreased after forced retirement:
Mr. D'Ablemont currently practices at the firm as a "life partner," receiving a pension and an annual bonus that has ranged from $25,000 to $75,000. He says the bonus amounts to between one-seventh and 1/20 of what he estimates he would have earned if he were still an equity partner.
Boo hoo. I'm crying for your, grandpa.  But, I shouldn't be mean.   According to his estimates, he's out somewhere between $175K and $1.875 mill.  From my general knowledge, I know that PPP can be somewhere between $900K and $3 mill. But when I went on-line to verify, I found out that the information is hidden behind a password.  Feel free to access it and let me know if I'm wrong.  So, in light of what I believe to be true, old partners are being screwed out of lots of money.  So, to the extent that's true, I feel for him.

There's arguments for keeping the geezers flush with green.  Often times, they are the rainmakers in the firm and their name on the letterhead can generate business because of their long and prestigious careers. On the other hand, they are not as productive as the kids:
Kelley Drye denies that allegation, adding, among other things, that Mr. D'Ablemont's billable hours in the past five years were on average one-seventh to 1/10 of what he billed earlier in his career.
Well, it's hard to keep up with 50 years of technology. I still don't tweet or twit.  Whatever.

So, there are law firms that see the writing on the wall, and are amending their retirement policies, like  Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman and K&L Gates.

Other law firms haven't, so upon reaching the mandatory retirement age, these lawyers are seeking jobs elsewhere.  They aren't taking going away.  That is apparent.

So, as always, I must address what impact this has on the legal industry and BIDER readers.  This is more evidence that the legal industry is not growing.  Visit any local courthouse and you'll see the lawyers coming in on walkers and canes... okay, I'm exaggerating.  But I really meant it when I said that I had a boss that worked until he died of a heart attack on a bus.  He had Alzheimer's and would ask me the same question 50 times in a day.  "Did you schedule that EBT in the XYZ matter?"  "Hey, Angel!  Did you schedule that EBT yet?" "Angel, I was just thinking. We need to schedule that EBT in XYZ."  Lawyers don't retire. They die.

So, where do you fit in?  I'm not sure, but I know that the legal industry can't absorb us all.

This isn't really about old lawyers, but it's funny as hell.


  1. I'm a classic bitter Gen-X type and I firmly believe that the Boomers will not retire until they have sucked every last dollar out of their firms and rolled up the red carpet behind them.

    That said, I don't see the age discrimination claim here -- these dudes (and they are all dudes) are partners, not employees. There is some case law supporting the proposition that at these megafirms, one can be an "employee" for the purposes of anti-discrimination laws notwithstanding a partner title, but when you are talking about really senior partners who probably did participate substantially in firm governance, that argument is not as compelling as it would be for, say, a first year non-equity service partner at Gigafirm LLP.

    Also: how many of the gentlemen profiled in this piece kicked THEIR elders' asses out the door at age 70? What goes around comes around.

  2. That's the damn truth. Chances are that these guys voted the forced retirement policies in place. Most of these firms aren't *that* old. Now, it no longer serves their purposes and they want out. Hypocrisy at its finest.

  3. I don't have a problem with the oldies practicing law. Many of them can rattle things off the top of their head and probably dealt with a lot of crap early in their careers so they should be allowed to enjoy the ability to bask in the glow of their accomplishments.

    But at the same time, I don't have a use for people who act like hags or who can't keep up with the times. Hey, Grandpa and Grandma, it's 2010. Women attorneys aren't your "girls," Mexicans aren't "wetbacks," I've already answered the same nosy personal questions you've asked but have no memory of asking at least 5 times already, and that computer you've been using since 1998 should be replaced. I don't care if it still works. It takes 10 minutes to boot up and the screen isn't wide enough.

  4. I think I wrote about this when I was doing the 50 Reasons Not to Go to Law school.

    Most people want to retire at some point, and they see lawyer salaries as a ticket to retiring early. Unfortunately, lawyers don't ever get to enjoy their golden years, they just keep working.

    I think the reason is that succeeding in law means letting it take over your entire life, you don't have an identity outside of it. Just look at the really successful lawyers who, after being downsized by their firms, committed suicide. I can only imagine this was because losing their job meant losing their identity.

    I think this is related to how old people often die within months of their spouse dying. They've lost the most meaningful thing to them, so why keep on? Same thing is common with coaches, who often die shortly after retiring.

  5. Jadz nailed it! These old bastards forced out the prior generation, and now want to extend their careers at the expense of the younger associates and partners.

    The fact remains that Baby Boomers are completely selfish pigs. They instilled in the rest of us the idea of abject materialism and the idea that "greed is good." This has CERTAINLY been harmful to the nation as a whole, and to millions of individual families. (I agree that it is also up to the person not to fall for such filth, but this was an intense movement.)

    I have also noted several times on these blogs that old attorneys cannot get enough of the courthouse. I have literally seen old fossil lawyers who COULD NOT SO MUCH AS STAND WHEN THE JUDGE ENTERED THE COURTROOM. I have seen this, and had to stifle laughter. I saw one man who damn nearly collapsed in such an effort. It is embarrassing.

  6. Baby Boomers - the most selfish, self-absorbed generation to ever grace Planet Earth.

  7. Baby Boomers are the most selfish assholes ever.

  8. OK, people, I guess it's time to defend me and mine. I'm a Boomer, albeit a back-ender. We came along way too late to get the 50s and 60s perks the front-enders got, the ones who are normally identified as Boomers. By the time we came of age, the Oil Crisis had happened and the wheels had fallen off the American Economic Miracle. Those of us with any wits figured there was no retirement waiting for us in our golden years, so we looked for fields where we could keep chugging along. Law looked good because they let you keep doing it until you keel over. My age group hasn't been trying to make it impossible for the elderly to practice; we've been counting on it from day one.



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