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The Value of Our Senior Lawyers
With this IBJ issue the ISBA tips its hat to the fastest growing demographic in the legal profession.
The second largest demographic within the Illinois State Bar Association (after the Young Lawyers Division) consists of those who qualify for membership in the Senior Lawyers Division (SLD) - members who are either 55 or older or who have been licensed to practice for at least 25 years. Not surprisingly, this group of lawyers is the fastest growing within our profession. Thus, it is fitting that, in this month's Illinois Bar Journal, we have placed special emphasis on matters of particular interest to this very important part of our membership.
It is impossible to overstate the value of senior lawyers to our profession and within the ISBA. Personally, I have benefited so much - both as a lawyer, and bar leader - from their mentorship, commitment to maintaining ours as an honorable profession, and desire to serve others. Two examples of such senior lawyers that come to mind for me are Sidney S. Schiller of Chicago and S.S. "Joe" Schneider of Bloomington. I served with them on what was then known as the ISBA's Standing Committee on Membership and Bar Activities.
Sid Schiller taught all those around him of the importance of taking care of lawyers in need. The humane approach he advanced for the ISBA's evaluation of requests for temporary dues reductions from lawyers experiencing financial difficulty continues to this day.
Joe Schneider was also generous with the time he devoted to the bar and the people who served it. He and I worked on many projects together (he was the absolute model of what an older lawyer should be for a younger lawyer), but what I remember most was his compassion and support for our bar friends suffering from serious health challenges.
Both Sid Schiller and Joe Schneider have since passed away. But when I worked with them, they were in the twilight of their legal careers. They did not need to devote their time and talent to the bar, but like many other senior lawyers who continue to be actively involved in the ISBA, they chose to do so. We are all the better for it.
Not all our senior lawyer members - as we define them - are anywhere near the "twilight" of their careers. In fact, these members range from those in their most productive years as practitioners to those who have retired. Regardless of where they fit on this spectrum, our senior lawyers play very important roles on many ISBA standing committees and section councils, including our Senior Lawyer Division Section Council (chaired this year by Don M. Mateer of Rockford), whose mission is to serve ISBA senior lawyers, including by creating opportunities for their service.
ISBA senior lawyers also serve our profession on a national level in a number of other organizations. This includes the service of Judge Edward J. Schoenbaum (from Springfield) as chair of the ABA Senior Lawyer Division (following in the footsteps of my father, Richard L. Thies of Urbana, who held the same position in 2004-2005). This group (a formidable force!) recently joined with the ISBA in advancing a resolution in the ABA House of Delegates supporting the continuation of ABA policy against nonlawyer ownership of law firms and against fee-splitting with nonlawyers.
You need not be a senior lawyer to benefit from the information in this issue, particularly as it concerns the need for all of us - practitioners, judges, and clients - to plan for our "senior" years. All of us have seen that careful planning helps soften the blow of a serious illness or untimely death. We have also seen what often happens without such planning.
Articles in this issue concern the sale of a law practice, planning for retirement (young lawyers take special note of this one), the latest developments in paying for long-term care, the "gray divorce" revolution, and actions under the Revised Illinois Power of Attorney Act. Members of the IBJ Editorial Board (whose editor-in-chief, Dixon lawyer Gary R. Gehlbach, wrote the retirement article) are to be commended for identifying timely topics with broad appeal.
Our Senior Lawyer Division is and will continue to be a vital part of our Association. I celebrate the division's members for the leadership role they continue to play within the ISBA and beyond!