Old People

'Whee!!! I'm old!!!'

What’s the judge wearing underneath his robe? In the case of Judge Wesley E. Brown of the District of Kansas, the oldest living federal judge, the smart money is on these.

Judge Brown, the subject of a front-page profile in the New York Times (the news cycle is a little slow right now), is a whopping 103 years old. He was born on June 22, 1907. The president at the time was Roosevelt — Teddy, not Franklin. Judge Brown was appointed to the district court by President John F. Kennedy, and he’s one of just four JFK appointments still on the bench.

Despite his (extremely) advanced age, Judge Brown still regularly takes the bench to hear cases. And, impressively, he does so with his eyes open….

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'And then I told him I'd file a motion to compel his a**....'

It’s important to think about — and not just think about, but save for — your retirement. This is especially true now that Social Security is looking less than alluring. (When I see that money taken out of my paycheck, I just kiss it goodbye, forever.)

When it comes to providing for associates and other employees, most large law firms take a fairly straightforward approach: they offer 401(k) accounts, but no matching employer contributions. One of the few Biglaw firms that provided a match, K&L Gates, stopped that policy back in 2007.

With respect to retirement provisions for partners, there’s more variation from firm to firm. Some shops provide for retired partners in very generous fashion. For example, retired partners at Wachtell Lipton can receive annual seven-figure payouts for many years after leaving the firm (although sources at my former firm tell me some of this money represents a return of capital to the retired partners, and as such will vary from partner to partner).

A million-dollar retirement benefit is no doubt very pleasing. But at other firms, aging partners are less content with their arrangements….

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I have to, it’s my job. I mean what would I do? I don’t know what I would do.

– Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner, when asked at trial how he could carry on after feeling threatened by radio host Hal Turner’s comment that Judge Posner and two of his colleagues “deserve to be killed.”

Wachtell Lipton is one of the nation’s most prestigious and most profitable law firms. The lawyers who work there, especially the partners, are some seriously smart cookies.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that a former Wachtell partner has gotten the best of his ex-wife in contentious divorce proceedings. Leigh Jones of the National Law Journal reports:

It may have been the result of some crafty legal maneuvering by a Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz partner, or it may have simply been part of his tempestuous marriage to a “European Playmate” nearly 30 years his junior. Whatever the reason, the now-retired partner has thwarted a second bid by his ex-wife to invalidate a prenuptial agreement and collect a share of the annual retirement payments that he receives from the firm.

The Appellate Court of Connecticut, in a decision released on Thursday, affirmed a divorce judgment between retired Wachtell partner Peter McKenna, now 72, and Roberta Delente, a one-time model from Brazil who was working for an agency called “European Playmates” when the couple met in 1997. She was 32 at the time.

The divorce judgment left Delente, from whom McKenna sought a divorce less than a year after their wedding in August 1999, with virtually nothing from the marriage.

Let’s cut to the question that everyone is curious about: How big is McKenna’s (retirement) package?

UPDATE: And how hot is Roberta Delente? We’ve added a photo — as well as a link to the appellate court’s opinion, but that’s less exciting — after the jump.

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The courtroom lends itself to dramatization. A trial has a natural story arc: The adversarial system makes for a clear conflict between characters. There’s a natural end point when both sides rest their cases and the verdict comes down. Plus, lawyers are such loveable characters.

And so there are many great movies and TV shows about lawyers. (Along with some not so great ones.) They can amuse, inspire, terrify, or convince you to go to law school.

The ABA Journal has made a list of the 25 greatest fictional lawyers of all time:

In our survey of this literature of lawyers, however, we feel obliged to recognize a great divide—ante-Atticus and post-Atticus.

From Dick the Butcher’s famous pronouncement to Jack Cade in Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 2 — “First thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” — through Dickens’ Mr. Tulkinghorn and Galsworthy’s Soames Forsyte, literature (with a few exceptions) treated lawyers poorly.

That all changed with Harper Lee’s unflappable, unforgettable Atticus Finch. With Atticus, the lawyer — once the criminal mouthpiece, the country club charlatan, the ambulance-chasing buffoon — was now an instrument of truth, an advocate of justice, the epitome of reason.

Since Finch is a literary lawyer on steroids, they have cut him from the competition. The list is the 25 greatest who are not Atticus Finch. Did your favorite make the list?

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As the Baby Boomers continue to age, we’ve been documenting their reluctance to gracefully leave the Biglaw stage. One would think that all these lingering old people would at least be a good mentoring resource for the younger generation. Kash suggested as much when we debated the topic earlier this year.

But an article up on American Lawyer this morning suggests that aging Americans don’t view “mentoring” the young as part of their job description. A former Kirkland & Ellis partner, Steven Harper, writes about the mentoring gap in Biglaw. His starting point is an interesting article from former Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan:

Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Peggy Noonan, writing recently in The Wall Street Journal, hit on an important truth that law firm leaders should heed. In lamenting what she called the national need for “adult supervision,” Noonan wrote, “there’s kind of an emerging mentoring gap going on in America right now … a generalized absence of the wise old politician/lawyer/leader/editor who helps the young along, who teaches them the ropes and ways and traditions of a craft.”

Dear Baby Boomers, please look to your own house before you criticize Gen Y for its Twitter-aided navel gazing…

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Here’s a fun little story about the immense, door-opening possibilities you can enjoy once you have a J.D. and/or legal experience. From the ABA Journal:

With 23 years of legal experience, Laurie-[E]llen Shumaker thought she would soon find another job when she was laid off in January 2009 from her position as a shopping center lawyer.

But today, after applying for over 1,000 jobs—including positions as a clerk and a day care worker—Shumaker, who is nearly 60 years old, has landed exactly zero interviews…

The Huffington Post has Shumaker’s full story. At this point, the 59-year-old grandmother just wants to know if she’s too old, or has one too many X chromosomes, to find work…

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The modern workplace plays host to three generations: the baby boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. A panel at the InsideCounsel SuperConference this week called the youngest of the bunch, Gen-Why?. The italics are likely meant to indicate a whiny tone, because this bunch, born from 1981 to 2001, are supposedly entitled and snotty. E.g., “You’re going to defer me for a year with a $60,000 stipend? Wah! I hate you!”

I attended the panel as did another legal blogger, Adrian Dayton. Check out his post on what’s wrong with Gen-Y. Despite their complaints about the young’uns, oldies tend to give in to their wishes, judging from the response one general counsel gave to a Gen-Yer who asked to head off to New Zealand for a year and have his job held until he got back.

A not-especially-snotty-or-entitled Gen-Yer was chosen for the panel: Jack Rossi, staff counsel at JetBlue, who scored an in-house offer directly out of law school. He admitted that some of the myths about his generation are true: he does like feedback and wants mentorship (and he’s gotten it in-house). An older baby boomer lawyer in the audience spoke up to say, “I wanted the same things as Jack, but I was not brave enough to ask for it… It was kind of ‘figure out for yourself.’ I think the fact that younger lawyers ask is actually a good thing.”

Honestly, there wasn’t a lot of tension in the room between Gen Y and Boomers, even when J.D. turned PhD panelist, Arin Reeves of The Athens Group, suggested Boomers were at fault for spoiling young folks given the wining-and-dining summer associate experience they created. “If you want to teach that work is the priority, take the events away,” said Reeves.

I think all of our Biglaw readers will agree with us in deeming that terrible advice.

In the room, greater tension seemed to exist between Gen X and Gen Y. “It sounds like we’re saying, ‘How are we going to accommodate an already spoiled generation?’” observed one Gen Xer.

Since I am Gen Y, and Elie is Gen X, we thought this would be an opportune time for a little ATL debate. I’ll let the old man go first…

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A number of people sent us this article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. At first it reads like your classic “boy, this recession seems to be affecting lawyers too,” mainstream media story. Most of the stuff here are things regular Above the Law readers are fully aware of, though it’s always interesting to hear how the secondary markets like Minneapolis-St. Paul are doing.

But about halfway through the piece, the paper reveals one of the most callous stories that we’ve heard during this entire recession:

Matt Nelson graduated last week from the University of Minnesota with a law degree and an MBA. Nelson, 36, was on track to earn $145,000 his first year at a Milwaukee firm. But duty called, and while he was serving as an Army paralegal in Iraq, Milwaukee withdrew its offer.

Are you kidding me? The firm pulled an offer from somebody who was serving his country in Iraq!? What kind of bleeping bleep firm bleeps over our bleeping troops when they’re in the middle of a bleeping war, trying to make it safe for these bleeping partners to bleep their secretaries on their motherbleeping planes?

UPDATE / CORRECTION: This discussion is subject to a correction — see here.

Of course, Nelson handled this world-class rogering with more grace and class than I can even imagine…

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I recently had a birthday. I’m 32-years-old, but my liver has to be at least 60. It’s pretty close to mandatory retirement age. But I’m just getting back from Vegas (full report on twitter) and I can tell you that my liver will not go quietly into the good night.

And so I have a little appreciation for the partners that recently departed Mendes & Mount. A couple of partners there bumped up against the firm’s mandatory retirement age. After a failed negotiation with firm management, the older partners decided to take most of the damn practice group with them and start a new firm. The New York Law Journal reports:

Seven partners at Mendes & Mount have departed to launch a boutique after at least one of the partners failed to persuade the firm to amend its mandatory retirement policy.

The new firm, Fitzpatrick & Hunt, Tucker, Collier, Pagano, Aubert, consists of the bulk of Mendes & Mounts’ aviation practice and will have offices in New York and Los Angeles, said partner Ralph V. Pagano. The firm will be made up of 24 lawyers from Mendes & Mount, including the partners, one of whom joins as special counsel. Mendes & Mount will be left with about 109 lawyers.

“It’s a pretty big break-off,” Pagano said.

How’s that for flexing some muscle? Push me out — I’ll take 24 lawyers and your aviation practice group with me! Screw you guys, I’m going home.

Hey, the older partners gave Mendes an opportunity to reconsider…

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