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Senior Lawyers
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Section on Senior Lawyers

June 2014, vol. 5, no. 3

Interview with a happily practicing senior lawyer

My first interview for the Senior Lawyers newsletter was of Frank Ariano, a happily retired senior lawyer. The following is an interview with Loren Golden who is happily continuing his practice of law into his senior years.

Mateer: Loren, when were you licensed to practice law and how many years have you been practicing law?

Golden: I was first licensed in 1968. I went to Drake University and I was licensed in Iowa. And I came to Illinois that same summer of 1968. I did not pass the Illinois bar exam until 1969. During that period of time I was a piano player at the Playboy Club in Chicago.

Mateer: Do you have plans to retire anytime in the near future?

Golden: No, I get asked that more and more and I keep wondering why people ask me that until I walk by a mirror (I don’t look at myself a lot). I look in the mirror and jump back and realize that’s why they are asking me. Unfortunately, I have not had any work done on my face and I probably should add some color to my hair but I do not do that either. Anyway, I have no plans to retire.

Mateer: Why is it that you have no plans to retire?

Golden: Well, I think about it more and more the older I get. One of the reasons has been that I have been lucky, let’s just call it dumb luck. I have been blessed with inordinate good health, at least so far. People still call me and attorneys still refer people to me. I do personal injury and I help people. The case could be any case, it could be a case like the one in Mount Carroll (the grain bin case) which was $830,000+ but, more to the point, I take cases where people get rear-ended complaining of whiplash. They come to me and say they need help and I help them. That’s why I still do it because I still help people. It helps you continue to feel connected and relevant.

Mateer: What advice do you have for attorneys who wish to continue their active practice of law into their senior years?

Golden: When I was Bar President, I used to give a talk to the incoming young lawyers and I would always tell them to never give up their passions, whatever their passions were. Mine happened to be a jazz pianist and professional actor. So I was very connected to the arts and still am, doing the Kane County bar show on April 12th and playing jazz piano at the Elgin community college on April 14th. I tell the young lawyers that this is very important. I will joke with young lawyers. I’ll say that here I was playing piano at the Playboy Club in Chicago and all my classmates would come in from Drake to see me play and kind of gawk around the room of course, then I would tell them that a tragedy befell me, a horrible tragedy, and everybody’s on the edge of their chairs saying, what happened? I would look at them and say, I passed the Illinois bar exam and they would get the joke. But I tell people you should never give up your passions whatever they are. The other thing is, I have had older lawyers call me, friends and colleagues of mine, just to schmooze, to talk about ... I’m thinking of retirement, what am I doing this for. So we talk; I have no answer; I am not a trained therapist. We talk about it and I say one of the things that I tell people that are getting up in years is the issue is not whether you have all your marbles; it is whether you have all the marbles that count. There are some of the marbles we do not have as we get older. We have all this information in our head and sometimes we cannot remember some person’s name, something like that. That does not mean that you do not have the marbles that count. I tell lawyers that you should sit there and do a regular inventory; you should know your cases. So far, knock on wood, I can still do a pretty good job at it. But I still think about it and I think more and more about it especially when I have colleagues call me and talk about that.

Mateer: What contingency plans do you have in place for your clients if you suffer a serious illness or disability?

Golden: I’m glad you asked that question, that’s a good question. The Illinois State Bar Association through the Senior Lawyers Section Council has presented a seminar by John Maville and John Phipps concerning what you do when your secretary gets a call and finds that Loren won’t be coming in today; he’s stroked out or passed away. Do you have some plan in place? It was a terrific seminar; in fact I saw it twice, I was the emcee of the seminar. I do have a plan in place; there is another attorney who I have known for years who does plaintiff’s and defense work and is very capable, a great personality. I have spoken to him; if that happens, would he want to step in and, of course, he says yes. Having said that, as you know, lawyers cannot buy and sell clients, but I do have that plan in place and it is up to the clients as to whether they continue with the attorney I have chosen.

Mateer: We have talked about some of these, but what other interests do you have besides the practice of law?

Golden: Besides performing arts, I am active in my Kiwanis club; I think everybody should be involved in service clubs. I think that’s really important. Especially young people should be involved in service clubs since membership in service clubs is getting older and older. I think altruism is just a good thing. It makes you feel good and it’s a good idea.

Mateer: How and why are you still involved with the ISBA?

Golden: Well, I gave that talk too. I’ve told people this; the moment I got active with the ISBA is when Roger Eichmeier called up. He was a judge here, active in the ISBA in the 80s and I was not at that time. He said how would you like to be on the assembly and I said what’s that? I was led kicking and screaming to the practice of law because I had all these other interests. The interest in the arts and performance and all of that. If somebody had told me back then I would be president of the State Bar, I would’ve said you have me confused with somebody else. I’m a jazz piano player, I’m an actor and I do all this stuff. But he called up and said do that. I said I will get active and I think that is what saved me. I do not mean to sound like a religious zealot but it helped me come out of my cave; we’re all in caves as we practice. I talked to other lawyers and it really saved me as being a lawyer. I really got focus and perspective connecting with other lawyers. It was the best thing I ever did. So people say to me, I do not have time to do that and I say everybody says they do not have time. They say, you’re president, do you have time for that, and I tell them, you always have time. The time I have spent with the Illinois State Bar has come back and paid dividends, way large dividends. I’m not talking about money; I’m talking about turning law into a passion, and doing that like I do the other passions in my life. That’s what was crucial. I am a huge booster of the Illinois State Bar Association.

Mateer: Tell me more about Roger Eichmeier contacting you?

Golden: He was on the board of governors of the Illinois State Bar Association, he passed away not too long ago, I believe. I didn’t really know him that well; I do not know why he picked me. I tell people it had to be because I was active with the Kane County Bar doing bar shows then, writing music and playing the piano. I can only assume that is what he saw. If you can see people doing their passion, that is the best way to size somebody up. You can see the real person, that is important.

Mateer: What do you do, if anything, to keep your mind sharp and focused on legal tasks?

Golden: I don’t think I do anything consciously. I don’t do any mental exercises but I come to the office on a daily basis, unless we travel. My wife is a retired judge. I come to the office and I look at my practice. I would suggest older attorneys, if they do not have this, get a software program. I have a software program for personal injury, and I feel it is important to have something like that. My paralegal knows all about how to run that program and I think this helps keep you sharp. And regularly I tell myself to print out statutes of limitation, which my paralegal does regularly for me. I look them over and, so far, things have been fine. The other thing I say you should do as a practicing older attorney is always keep up your liability insurance. I am with ISBA Mutual. I think that is very important. It’s important not just for you and your family but it is important for your clients.

Mateer: If you could give only one piece of advice to a senior lawyer continuing the practice of law versus retirement, what would that be?

Golden: Don’t be isolated. Be out there with your service clubs, State Bar, with the county bar. Always be out there with these people. That will keep you connected. It will also let you know maybe it’s time to retire. To be isolated is not good for anybody.

Mateer: What do you enjoy most about practicing law?

Golden: Helping people. I would like to say it’s making oodles of money, but we know I haven’t done that. I think it’s important to feel relevant and connected for your well-being. You know you settle a case and get a fee and for $100, you get two grand you get $500, it’s a big deal. It does not mean you’re generating wealth but it means you are relevant. You’re still there. You’re still in the game. That’s really important.

Mateer: Loren would you now give us some of your background?

Golden: I was born and raised in Kewanee, Illinois, the hog capital of the world, the only Jewish kid that was born and raised in a town that celebrates pork. My dad was a podiatrist there, born and raised there. My grandpa came over from the old country, didn’t have a roof kind of thing. I am Jewish obviously. From there I graduated from Wethersfield High School; there were two high schools in Kewanee, do not ask me why. I went to Drake for undergraduate and law school. I played piano at the old Playboy Club Hotel in Lake Geneva. I tell the story about my friend Wendell Clancy who practices in Geneva with his son Mike Clancy; they are dear friends, like family. Here I was a young lawyer, 1970-1971, and taking a deposition out in Geneva. I was doing dram shop defense work and Wendell had the plaintiff’s case. We finished the deposition, and I never told people back then, by the way I’m in show business, but it was during the week and I had to run to my car, it was in the afternoon, and put my tuxedo on and drive up to Lake Geneva to play the Phyllis Diller show. I do that, I drive up and get on stage. I’m with the band, the curtains open up, Phyllis is walking on stage, and I’m playing the piano and right down in the front row is Wendell Clancy! He looks at me and his jaw drops and I put my finger to my lips and I go “shhhh,” don’t tell anybody. I have a schizophrenic life between acting, show business and the law. Sometimes I think they’re all the same. I will tell you this, if you have been involved in acting classes, they tell you to always be true and honest. Be true to your emotion, be true and honest in the emotion you are portraying. They tell you the same thing in trial technique classes, do not ever try to BS the jury, be yourself. That goes a long way.

Mateer: Thanks Loren, it was really fun and entertaining to talk with you today. Thanks for taking the time.

Golden: My pleasure. ■