Senior Lawyers and Judges Section Plans Launch

HCBA Senior Section Member

Register for the May 13th Senior Lawyers Virtual Meet & Greet 


Okay Boomers, this one’s for you. A new HCBA section for senior lawyers and judges will launch this year, not only for Boomers but also for Generations X, Y, and Z. The plan is to bring all of us together in friendship, education and service and we seniors need the wisdom of the young.

“We can all benefit from staying connected,” said section chair Kathleen Murphy, a solo family law practitioner in Minneapolis. Murphy envisioned the section and achieved buy-in from the HCBA in 2019. “It wasn’t hard since the organization was enthusiastic,” said then HCBA President Jeff Baill. “It is a great idea to enable lawyers with common issues about transitioning and aging to share ideas,” he said. But he gives all the credit to Murphy.

“She’s done the heavy lifting, as she always does,” Baill said

Expanding interests
Murphy’s variety of interests led her to want to serve the profession and it became apparent that tapping into the wisdom and experience of senior lawyers and judges was important. She learned through working with and chairing the HCBA Bar Memorial committee that senior lawyers are very vibrant, centered in the profession in many ways and eager to stay connected. It led her to find a way to address a wide range of professional and social concerns among this group.

“What are their interests now? How can we best channel their wisdom and experience and have their interests addressed as well?” asked Murphy. She reviewed the “outstanding record” of the New Lawyers Section and concluded that the bar needs something for the other end of the professional continuum. She wanted to start on a small scale, and first used a nuts-and-bolts approach in creating a platform for the section. The first step was bar association approval and by-laws (see sidebar for the by-laws statement of purpose).

Focus group
The next step was talking with lawyers to gauge their interest, with the help of HCBA leadership, including Baill and current president, Esteban Rivera. They found lawyers and judges didn’t want to lose their place in the profession as it continued to change rapidly.

There is ample opportunity for senior lawyers to contribute to the profession, Murphy found. That’s prompted by rapid change in technology and the practice of law as well as social needs in the population. “There is so much for them to offer and teach, and they want to stay relevant to the profession,” she said. “We can all benefit from staying connected.”

Minneapolis attorney Tom Nelson, who organized such events between different generations of attorneys when serving as HCBA president in 2014-15, agreed that there’s value in just getting together and telling stories. One of those events included a “switch” where the newer lawyers talked about technology.

Murphy said that another contribution that more senior lawyers can make is their disparate experience in non-traditional law careers. For example, she said, the secretary of the section (and author of this piece) brings writing skills and journalistic experience to the initiative.

And of course, many lawyers want to contribute pro bono work. “This is an opportunity for lawyers to stay connected and do good for the community,” said Tom Tinkham, noting that many pro bono organizations provide malpractice insurance.

COVID-19 hit in 2020, which did not stop the individual connections with other lawyers but did turn them virtual. Actually, a pandemic place suited the start-up of the section. “I wanted to start small, it goes much better,” Murphy explained. “You work out the glitches and then expand.” It turned out to perfectly suit the creation of the new section. “Individual success is just as significant as larger scale. Little wins turn into big wins,” Murphy said. With its quarantines and isolation, the pandemic spotlighted the need for the section.

Launch
The section is planning a virtual Meet & Greet event on Thursday, May 13 with the message “Come and join us,” Murphy said. Plans are also in the works for a panel CLE in June that tentatively titled “Who Am I When I No Longer Do What I Did?”

While challenges may arise from life transitions, “Lawyers who no longer practice full time still have a lot to give and want an opportunity to remain actively engaged with people who have been their friends for years,” said section vicechair, Cliff Greene, “Sharing their expertise will benefit everyone. We are a valuable resource and [if organized] can make contributions we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”

“We’re building a strong leadership team of officers as the next best step,” Murphy said. “So far we have myself, Clifford Greene as vice-chair and Barbara Jones as secretary. This was a major stroke of luck—they are both dynamite. We also have staff liaison Kara Haro with her great organizational skills. We need one more person to step up for leadership.” (If interested contact Haro at kharo@mnbars.org.) The aforementioned June CLE will also feature elections for the upcoming bar year, where members will have an opportunity to vote on the proposed slate of officers.

Murphy met with the leadership of the senior division at the ABA who were very helpful and confirmed that the connectivity of the membership strengthens the ABA. “There is great opportunity to broaden the HCBA,” Murphy said.

The ABA automatically includes its senior lawyers in its Senior Lawyers Division, which now totals nearly 50,000, according to its website. The division, active since 1986, offers a playbook of potential section programming. It hosts summits and webinars on topics such as elder law, succession planning, retirement planning, switching to part-time, handling transitions, mentoring and pro bono service, along with other senior-well being topics.

When asked what the section will look like in the future, Baill said the goal is to provide an opportunity to bring people together because lawyers have a lot in common. He anticipates a robust section with a lot of members and interesting programs.

Current HCBA President Esteban Rivera said that keeping lawyers connected to the profession and the bar associations is beneficial not only to the senior lawyers but also for new lawyers coming along. They also have information to share with senior lawyers, he pointed out. “It is also good for the bar associations, where membership has declined,” Rivera said. In fact, the new section began to take shape at a time when the HCBA reduced its fees for retired attorneys and judges. “This fit in perfectly,” Baill said.

Barbara Jones
barbarajones14@comcast.net
Barbara Jones has been a member of the Minnesota bar since 1982. She is also a writer and editor, and formerly the editor of Minnesota Lawyer.