We’ve written from time to time about senior judges, the most senior of whom was Wesley E. Brown of the District of Kansas, who remained on the bench until his death at age 104. We’ve even written about lateral moves made by nonagenarians to highly esteemed Biglaw firms, likely performed with the aid of a walker. We’ve never written about centenarian Biglaw attorneys, presumably because there are very few of them, but that’s about to change.
Fear not, clients, for that’s not a blood stain on your legal documents. It’s prune juice, because a 101-year-old lawyer was working on your deal, and he needs to stay regular to keep his billable hours up.
Which Biglaw firm is keeping this extremely senior counsel on its payroll?
Murray H. Shusterman, a man who’s already picked his coffin out and planned his own funeral, works for Fox Rothschild, and he’s been there for more than 40 years. Despite the fact that his 102nd birthday is nearing, Shusterman still goes to the office, where he tries to put in full eight-hour days, all week long.
Because he’s surpassed the age of 100, the Philadelphia Inquirer recently profiled Shusterman, expecting him to know all of life’s secrets. He doesn’t (and if he does, he wasn’t willing to share them with the newspaper), but you can really gain a sense of the kind of man he is, and what his work means to him:
Shusterman began practicing law in 1936, when Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House – and he hasn’t stopped working since.
Today, at age 101, he travels each day from his Bala Cynwyd home to his Center City office at Fox Rothschild, where his work has focused on corporate and real estate law.
“What? Retire? Sit in a rocking chair and wait to die?” Shusterman said in an interview. “All my life I’ve been active.”
So Fox Rothschild currently has a lawyer on staff who’s just five years younger than the firm itself (Shusterman was born in 1912; the firm was founded in 1907). It’s worth noting, though, that Shusterman’s title is now “senior counsel,” but in 1997, his title was “senior partner,” according to a book about Temple University, the wizened attorney’s alma mater. Was Shusterman demoted and de-equitized due to his old age, perhaps pursuant to a mandatory retirement policy?
We wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case — to be frank, it would be much more shocking to find out that a man who had dedicated the majority of his career to the firm never made partner.
Shusterman continues to practice law because of his “stubbornness,” according to his son, Robert Shusterman, 72, who’s also a lawyer. “He keeps pushing himself as hard as he can, and tries not to complain about things. He has a determination, a will to overcome impediments.” Murray Shusterman really sounds like the kind of lawyer you’d want in your corner during a particularly tough case.
Pressed to name the best moment of his life, and the worst, Shusterman declined to do either.
“There’s no such thing,” he said. “A person has many experiences over time, some good, some bad. . . . The real secret is to be decent, to be fair, and to be forgiving – now and then even a friend will do something that annoys you. And don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Most lawyers could stand to learn a lot from Murray Shusterman — but we fear he doesn’t have enough room on his lap for all of the attorneys in desperate need of mentoring.
Centenarian lawyer Murray Shusterman’s secret: Keep going [Philadelphia Inquirer]
101-year-old lawyer is still working at Fox Rothschild [ABA Journal]