July 30, 2019 CHAIR'S COLUMN

VOE Chair's Column July 2019

By Marvin S.C. Dang

Aloha (greetings) from Honolulu, Hawaii!

As the 2018-2019 Chair of the Senior Lawyers Division, I want to express my “mahalo” (thank you) for perusing this July 2019 issue of the SLD’s Voice of Experience e-newsletter.

Starting almost a year ago with my August 2018 Chair’s column, I’ve introduced monthly a Hawaiian word or phrase which I’ve tied to activities in the SLD. This month’s Hawaiian word is “naʻauao” meaning “knowledge or wisdom.” 

In my Chair’s column last month, I informed you about the SLD’s newly published 230-page book Second Acts for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers edited by jennifer j. rose. Seventeen lawyers wrote 21 chapters providing guidance for lawyers contemplating transitioning from practicing law to doing something else.

For the book, I authored a chapter titled “The Bar is Our Home.” I asked six experienced lawyers to explain why they continue to be active volunteers with bar associations (including the SLD) past their 60s and into their 70s and 80s. They also shared their knowledge and wisdom – their “naʻauao” – about how experienced lawyers can get involved or why experienced lawyers should stay involved with bar activities.

Read the first part of my chapter in the book.

Below is a portion of the first part and the remainder of the second part of the chapter. (If you’re interested in purchasing the book Second Acts for Solo and Small Firm Lawyers, here’s the link to more information: https://www.americanbar.org/products/inv/book/357298380/ . There’s a special discounted price for SLD members.)

Chapter 9  “The Bar Is Our Home”

by Marvin S.C. Dang

It’s been said that “home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling.” For many senior lawyers, home is the bar . . . the bar associations. Whether it’s a state or local bar association, an affinity bar association, or the American Bar Association, these organizations are the “feel good” homes for many senior lawyers, including me.

ABA lawyer members who are 62 years of age or older or who have been licensed to practice law for 37 or more years are automatically enrolled in the Senior Lawyers Division. There are no additional dues to be an SLD member. (Before 2016, lawyers who were 55 years of age or older could join the SLD by paying dues.) In 2018 about 60,000 lawyers were SLD members. These senior lawyers—or “experienced” lawyers as they are dubbed by the SLD—comprise about one out of every four ABA dues-paying lawyer members.

While many of these experienced lawyers are still working full-time, others are semiretired or retired. They have not only remained ABA members; many continue to be active volunteers in the SLD and in various ABA sections, divisions, forums, standing and special committees, and commissions. These volunteers serve in leadership positions, write books and articles, speak at continuing education programs and webinars, and participate in myriad committee activities. And these experienced lawyers are volunteering past their 60s and into their 70s and 80s.

I asked six experienced lawyers in 2018 to share some of their perspectives and to explain why they continue to volunteer in bar activities. Those lawyers are:

  • John Hardin “Jack” Young, of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, who has been a lawyer for 45 years. He’s semiretired and is “of counsel” to the Sandler Reiff law firm.
  • San Francisco lawyer John Uilkema passed the bar 57 years ago and is semi-retired from the law firm of Dergosits and Noah.
  • Admitted to the California bar 58 years ago, Charles “Chuck” Collier fully retired last year after most recently being a partner emeritus at a law firm.
  • Louraine Arkfeld, of Tempe, Arizona, is a retired judge. A licensed lawyer for 41 years, she now consults and teaches.
  • A lawyer for 50 years, Al Harvey works full-time as “of counsel” to the Lewis Thomason firm in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Ruth Kleinfeld, of Manchester, New Hampshire, retired as a judge two years ago and is establishing a part-time arbitration practice. She’s been a lawyer for 53 years.

. . .

Reasons to Stay Involved

Dang: Why do you choose to stay actively involved with the SLD and with other ABA activities?

Young: It’s the sense of connection with the legal profession, the continuing legal education, and the camaraderie of the profession.

Uilkema: The activities and their objectives are important to me. But probably even more important are the friends and personal relationships that they have fostered.

Collier: I enjoy bar association work and enjoy working with other successful lawyers and judges. I also hope that my efforts are of assistance to other lawyers through publications, committee work, etc., and contribute to the legal profession.

Arkfeld: I enjoy the opportunity to be involved in meaningful work and to stay engaged in current issues. I continue to meet interesting people and enjoy professional colleagues who share my interests.

Harvey: It’s the professional responsibility, service to the bar and the community, social interaction—being with friends built over a lifetime as a lawyer, enjoyment of bar work and activities, and travel.

Kleinfeld: I enjoy the friendship and interaction with intelligent, successful, and interesting lawyers and judges. Staying active in the bar association helps me maintain competence and social utility and the opportunity for multigenerational interaction.

Dang: What would you tell a senior lawyer who has been active in bar activities (especially ABA and SLD) are the reasons that he or she should stay actively involved?

Young: I would give all the reasons in my earlier response.

Uilkema: I would tell them that all the good things that have been important to them . . . educational opportunities, experiences, and friendships . . . will continue. Also, there’s good and important information for them relating to the law practice, the slowdown of the law practice, and retirement.

Collier: Exiting from full-time practice opens up so many opportunities to utilize one’s skills and contribute to the profession through committee work, writing, speaking, and mentoring. Staying active in a bar association allows one to continue to work with friends and colleagues and to render services to the profession and the community. It gives a person the chance to share his or her expertise with others.

Arkfeld: I would repeat my reasons in my earlier response.

Harvey: The same reasons as in my earlier response.

Kleinfeld: Friendships, intellectual stimulation, meaningful work, and ability to contribute to the vitality of the organized bar. Some ABA members have told me they stay members mainly for insurance coverage benefits. Also, the ABA offers many economic benefits.

It’s Never Too Late to Get Involved

Dang: What would you tell a senior lawyer who isn’t currently active in bar activities are the reasons that she or he should now consider getting involved?

Young: The SLD in particular provides an opportunity to stay involved in the profession, to continue to work on projects of interest, and to receive information important to life and wellness decisions for yourself, your family, and your friends.

Uilkema: You’ll find the activities and your involvement satisfying, educational, and useful, and, probably even more importantly, you will enjoy the people you meet and the friendships you develop. Somewhat ironically, I have often made closer personal friends in my bar activities than I have from my law partnerships. In retrospect, I recall my much older and first senior partner who had been the chair of the ABA Section of Intellectual Property and who obviously experienced the same thing. At that time I didn’t understand it and was somewhat envious of his ABA friends.

Collier: The benefits of bar association work include the opportunity to write articles and books; the chance to participate in special events at the ABA such as the annual meeting; hearing great speakers and the leaders of the profession; networking; continuing friendships over many more years; staying involved in the profession; and contributing through committee work.

Arkfeld: I would tell her or him the reasons I stated earlier. Also if you no longer have a professional workplace, it’s difficult to have these opportunities without something like the ABA.

Harvey: I would give the same reasons that I gave earlier.

Kleinfeld: It’s the intellectual stimulation and the opportunity to contribute by giving back to the legal profession.

Dang: How easy is it for a senior lawyer who hasn’t been involved to now get involved in bar activities?

Young: The SLD is open to all ABA members who are 62 years of age or older. It has a place for everyone at all levels of involvement. It’s open to participation in each of its substantive committees, as well as being open to new projects and ideas.

Uilkema: It would seem very easy, but for the person who has never been involved, that person might have a built-in resistance to getting involved.

Collier: There are always openings on committees that make it very easy to get actively involved. Every volunteer is welcome.

Arkfeld: It’s easy to get involved because organizations are always looking for people willing to do good work.

Harvey: The first step could be as easy as attending a meeting or joining a committee.

Kleinfeld: It’s very easy if the lawyer is willing to do the work (write, attend meetings, or present a webinar). It’s also easy if you get introduced by a friend or associate.

Dang: How can senior lawyers be actively involved with bar activities without having to travel to meetings?

Young: Attending ABA or SLD meetings can be the least important part of membership—although the meetings are both fun and interesting. Senior lawyers can be actively involved through writing articles for the SLD’s monthly Voice of Experience e-newsletter or the quarterly Experience magazine, participating in webinars and CLE programs, or drafting resolutions to the House of Delegates on issues important to you that you believe the House of Delegates (through sponsorship by the SLD) should enact.

Uilkema: They can get involved through developing some kind of personal involvement that makes them feel a part of the process. It’s important that they are involved with other people.

Collier: Senior lawyers can be involved through e-mail and telephone. Many SLD committee members participate only by phone and e-mail.

Arkfeld: They can be involved without travel because many SLD committees work online or via conference call. The SLD is always looking for good writers for articles for the Voice of Experience e-newsletter or Experience magazine, and this work can be done remotely.

Harvey: Most committees work via conference calls and email. But to be really active, they should plan to attend some meetings or conferences.

Kleinfeld: Without attending meetings, they can participate in committee meetings by telephone, write for the Voice of Experience e-newsletter or for Experience magazine, or participate as presenter at webinars (this can be done remotely).

Some Final Thoughts

Dang: Do you have any other comments?

Young: Yes, senior lawyers have a lot to contribute based on their experience and their experiences. The SLD is an excellent place to continue to connect to the law and the bar. In the words of Monty Python in Monty Python and the Holy Grail: “I’m not dead yet.” Anything but. Senior lawyers are a vital part of the legal profession.

Uilkema: The SLD should keep up the good work!

Collier: The SLD is a strong, vigorous ABA entity. Anyone active in it will benefit from participation in its activities.

Arkfeld: I am always reinvigorated after engaging with my SLD colleagues!

Harvey: Enjoyment of service to the profession should not stop on retirement. The need is there at every level, and experience gained through a life in the law is still valuable.

Kleinfeld: Get involved!

Dang: Continued bar association work is not just for the good of the legal profession. It’s good for those who volunteer. The ABA in general, and the SLD specifically, has been and continues to be the “feel good” home for Jack, John, Chuck, Louraine, Al, Ruth, and me. The bar can continue to be—or begin to be—the home for many other senior, experienced lawyers.

Author

Marvin S. C. Dang is the managing member of Law Offices of Marvin S. C. Dang, LLLC in Honolulu, Hawaii and has been an attorney since 1978.  He’s currently the 2018-2019 chair of the ABA Senior Lawyers Division, a member of the ABA Nominating Committee, a delegate in the ABA House of Delegates, and a commissioner on the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic  Diversity in the Profession.  During the past 42 years, he’s held leadership positions in various ABA divisions and sections.  A former legislator in the Hawaii State House of Representatives, he’s now a registered lobbyist.  His law firm’s practice areas include legislation, lobbying, creditors’ rights, and real estate matters.  He received his law degree from the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C.