Vol. 39, No. 2

Wisdom from your colleagues: Some thoughts on engaging older lawyers

by Marilyn Cavicchia

It happened that just as we were wrapping up our articles about senior lawyers for this issue of Bar Leader, a discussion along similar lines picked up on the Listserv for the National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section.

With special permission, here are some of the ideas that bar communicators shared on the subject of how to keep older lawyers engaged with the bar:

  • The Colorado and Denver Bar Associations are currently looking for ways to engage baby boomer members, including those who have already retired and are on inactive status, those who are thinking of retiring, and those who are not. The goal is to encourage them to remain as paying members and to help them give back to the profession.
  • The State Bar of Arizona is staging a three-part “Technology for Baby Boomers” CLE. Part 1, “Everything You Wanted to Know about Technology but Were Afraid to Ask,” was held on October 17. Attendees were encouraged to bring their laptops and other devices for hands-on exercises covering the Internet, operating systems, Microsoft Office, technology upkeep, and the cloud.
  • Within the past year or so, the supreme court of Minnesota adopted a new rule that allows senior/retired lawyers to provide pro bono representation in certain circumstances, often under the auspices of a legal services organization that can supervise and assist. “This has had the double benefit of expanding service to those in need and affording senior lawyers an opportunity to remain productively engaged,” notes Judson P. Haverkamp, editor of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bench & Bar of Minnesota.
  • The Tennessee Bar Association engages senior lawyers by making things fun: It has created a group called TBA Seasoned Counselors Up to Something (TBASCUS, pronounced like the hot sauce). “We found these folks did not want to do CLE,” says Stacey Shrader Joslin, director of media relations and of the bar’s Young Lawyers Division. “They just wanted to get together and reminisce.” TBASCUS events are held quarterly in conjunction with board meetings and the annual convention. Lawyers in the group are 50 and up, and also have access to a spring and fall travel program, for a fee, usually coordinated with the bar’s Board of Governors meetings.
  • Pat Yevics, director of Law Office Management Assistance at the Maryland State Bar Association, advises caution in reaching out to boomer and senior lawyers. Many boomers consider themselves to be different from “traditional” senior lawyers and are unwilling to join a senior lawyers’ group even when eligible. Also, she added, many are put off by the assumption that they don’t know much about technology, “especially solo practitioners who are pretty good with technology because they had to be.”
  • Senior lawyers at the Indiana State Bar Association are considering calling themselves the OWLS: the Older Wiser Lawyer Section.
  • Senior lawyers at the Oakland County (Mich.) Bar Association call themselves LOCA: Lawyers of a Certain Age. The committee was started and is co-chaired by a past president and retired circuit court judge. Committee members must be 62 years or older, which Kristen Dimich, director of communications, says accounts for about 30 percent of the bar's membership. The group meets quarterly to hear from speakers on topics of interest. In its first year, LOCA focused on health and wellness, including physical, mental, and sexual health. This year, Dimich notes, LOCA hopes to connect with the bar’s New Lawyers Committee “in hopes of sharing their knowledge with the next generation in a casual, social roundtable-like format.”
  • The Oklahoma Bar Association just created a group called the Master Lawyers Section. Within the section will be committees called Service to Senior Lawyers, Mentoring, Transitions, and Contribution and Membership.