Tell us a little about your career
My ongoing 51-year career in the law has been diverse and fulfilling, with many, sometimes overlapping, years spent in private practice, in legal education, charitable foundation management and law and aging advocacy.
Following three years as an associate in the general practice Stammer McKnight Fresno Cal firm, and a year in NYU Law’s postgraduate tax program, I spent 12 years as a tax / trusts and estates associate and partner in the LA office at the now global Paul, Hastings firm (then Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker). Regular adjunct teaching, co-authoring a national tax treatise with my former NYU law professor, John Peschel, and recruiting at law schools piqued my interest in joining the legal academy.
1980 was the beginning of a 30-year journey as a law professor: at the University of Utah, University of Georgia and Pacific McGeorge School of Law, with visiting stints at NYU, Stanford and the University of London. My teaching and scholarly interests were primarily in estate planning, health and elder law. Along the way, I served a combined total of 12 years as law Dean at the University of Utah and University of Georgia and on several ABA-AALS law school accreditation teams.
In 1983, the accidental simultaneous deaths of LA friends Albert and Elaine Borchard thrust me into the roles of president and a director of their fledgling charitable foundation, an unexpected opportunity to serve the public interest that I continue today.
In 1998, I spearheaded the Borchard Foundation’s creation of a Law and Aging Center, which former Fellow Mary Jane Ciccarello of Salt Lake City now co-directs. Through its academic research program, postgraduate law and aging Fellowship program and longtime partnerships with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging, Justice In Aging (formerly National Senior Citizens Law Center) and other nonprofit and educational institutions around the country, the Center strives to better the lives of our country’s vulnerable and disadvantaged elderly.
Is it what you planned when you entered law school?
I entered law school without a particular career goal beyond becoming a legal professional who could solve problems and help others. My subject area interests developed later, I did not foresee my career involvement in tax, health and elder law, in teaching and mentoring young lawyers, and in institutional advancement.
What have been the highlights of your career?
There are several, including:
- The opportunities in different ways and roles to contribute to the education and training of lawyers, especially elder law advocates, and to help improve laws, policies, programs and best practices in the field of law and aging;
- The various leadership opportunities entrusted to me in legal education, philanthropy and the field of law and aging, and the many fine, dedicated people I have met and worked with as a result;
- Helping individual clients, many pro bono;
- My work and friendships with the Borchard Law and Aging Fellows (now a national cohort numbering 42) both during and after their fellowship year.
Tell us about your work with the Albert and Elaine Borchard Foundation
It has always been challenging, exciting and rewarding. In its 30-plus year history, the Borchard Foundation has tripled the value of its asset base and annual grants, and created two programmatic centers, one in law and aging and the other in international education and research. Outside the Centers, grants are made to non-profits and educational institutions in the areas of elimination of poverty, youth development and education, the arts, and medical research and health services.
The foundation’s Law and Aging Center runs a postgraduate elder law public interest fellowship program, supports and oversees multi-disciplinary research projects, and partners with the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging and with Justice in Aging to educate and train elder law advocates and to improve and enforce laws promoting justice and autonomy for all our country’s elderly.
Tell us about your work with the ABA Commission on Law and Aging
I was introduced to the Commission and its extraordinarily able and productive staff in the early 1990s, served as a Commissioner for several years and have been a special advisor since. Our collaborations, directly and through the Borchard Center, have included national elder law conferences on ethics, Alzheimer’s disease, voting by persons with diminished capacity, and guardianship law reform. We also partnered for 10 years with the support of the Center’s professional advisory board, on a mini-grants program that provided seed money to more than 100 state and local public partnerships across the country. Borchard is also the major outside sponsor of the Commission’s annual Law and Aging Conference.
What are the biggest changes you have seen in the legal profession over your career?
There have been many big changes: more women and lawyers of color, thereby enriching the profession; advertising allowed; specialization; use of technology; movement away from a professional model of practice to a business model; mega-firms and globalization; high cost of legal services; overburdened and underfunded courts; development of court self-help centers; high cost of legal education with fewer career opportunities.
What advice would you give someone considering law school today?
Although the cost is high and employment opportunities uncertain, quality law schools today offer a rich curriculum, more and better clinical and other skills-training programs, and increased internship, externship and pro bono opportunities. A good legal education is a lifetime asset that can be used in many, many constructive and rewarding ways. Do not, however, become a lawyer if your primary objective is to make money rather than to serve your clients and the public interest.