Thursday, January 25, 2007

Attorney Retirement, Competence

The NY State Bar Association has just released a report (likely chronicled in your local paper, official link here) regarding mandatory retirement, as required by some firms. While it isn't a widely applicable report as it's only a portion of the BigLaw world that has such policies, it is interesting food for thought. Most importantly (and correctly) the report apparently states that age itself isn't a determinant of ability to practice.

On a digression fueled by this report, I would love to see more attention paid to attorney competence. The current system--take the bar, try not to get called to the Grievance Commission-really isn't a productive framework for learning and effective practice. It seems to be a remnant of the old apprentice system, wherein one was required to work with a lawyer before being able to practice. Today, there's no guarantee that anyone will have a mentor/master, much less an effective teacher. There are attorneys of all ages who make the rest of the bar collectively scratch our figurative heads and wonder why they haven't been disbarred. It would be great, though, if there was some scenario other than "try not to get caught screwing up" as a way of policing the profession.

As far as age, though, I think it is a relevant concern, but only as part of a number of factors. Age can mean many years of practice and experience. It can also mean being passed by trends and new developments, in society and in the law. It seems every Supreme Court decision is met by at least one pundit commenting on the age of the panel as coloring their decisions. Mandatory retirement isn't good, for state judges, private lawyers or anyone who still is able to actively contribute to the practice of law and delivery of justice.


Blogger buffalo estates lawyer said...

So, it is only an issue now that the young have become old and don't want to give up when the gettin' is good to make room for the younger generation. Notice that they are more concerned with that than competence, or combating discrimination within the profession? What does that say, but let the insiders keep holding on and keep the outsiders out.

2:17 PM  

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