A short history of the Senior Lawyers Division
The Senior Lawyers Division is in its 35th year of service to the American Bar Association, our national organization for lawyers. The SLD began life as a volunteer group with the ABA for lawyers over the age of 60, who came together for a common cause: to meet the needs of older lawyers, both those still active in the practice of law and those who have retired.
With the goal of expanded service to its members, the ABA realized that its slice of membership 62 years of age and over needed to expand and offer services and opportunities to all in the category of seniors. Being a senior meant more than simply being old. It meant that the lawyer (or judge) was now distinguished by years of practice and had achieved a higher level of experience. Such status was entitled to respect and admiration.
Achieving senior status did not take away the need to continue to participate, to serve; and to enjoy the camaraderie and collegiality of association with fellow lawyers.
Led by SLD Chair Louraine Arkfeld and supported by Vice Chair Jack Young and many past chairs and current officers, the SLD successfully argued to the Board of Governors that the SLD should follow the model of the Young Lawyers Division and should be composed of all ABA members in that category. For senior lawyers, that meant all ABA members age 62 and over. The ABA would support the group financially out of the general revenue fund and not require separate dues for membership. This model is one which has been adopted by other professional organizations such as the American Medical Association. The Board of Governors adopted the proposal in 2016.
As now structured, the SLD could provide benefits to its members with educational opportunities, publications and other services at no additional cost. It would allow the new SLD to emphasize benefits and resources in special areas such as elder law, and in general subjects such as financial planning and career transition.
The Division is now in its fourth year as an all-encompassing unit. Publications are expanding with helpful articles on all aspects of law practice and a wide variety of interesting articles on enjoying a fulfilling life.
Over 150 members participate on committees, projects and programs. The Division is doing its best to retain our members even if they leave the active practice of law and transition to other activities.
What’s in a name? Why “senior lawyers”? Many hours and volumes of emails have been exchanged trying to come up with a name that accurately describes us. Some lawyers refuse to admit that they are really “seniors” and seem offended by the suggestion. The Division is always open to suggestion. If you have a better title for lawyers 62 and over, send it to us. We would be glad to try it out and see how it fits.
In the future, the Division will strive to develop centers of excellence in areas such as elder law, health law for seniors, realistic approaches for the control of opioids and other medications, retirement planning, and second careers in counseling, teaching, mediation, public service, mentoring, and writing and publishing. By working in these areas, senior lawyers can continue to take advantage of their experience and can continue service to others, which have always marked the lives of successful lawyers.