Retiring Boomer Lawyers Ramp Up Pro Bono Efforts, and Large Firms Are on Board

The Washington Post has an article on a trend-in-the-making that’s been the subject of much recent discourse in pro bono circles: retiring or retired grayhairs senior attorneys ramping up their pro bono practices.  This makes sense, of course.  Baby Boomer attorneys will be retiring in large numbers quite soon.  The wonders of modern healthcare being what they are, there will be a large number of financially secure retirees who are in very good health and who wish to stay engaged with the practice of law, albeit free of the billing stresses.  Many will be attracted to the idea of full-time public-interest work, as well.

In an interesting development, some large law firms see a transition from fee-paying practice to pro bono as a nice way to help senior attorneys wrap up their careers.  This means that attorneys could essentially retire but could maintain a full-time pro bono practice using law firm resources.  Here’s a little bit from the Post article, “Shifting the Pro Bono Paradigm”:

[M]any law firms in Washington are rethinking how they structure retirement and compensation for senior lawyers. Eleven firms, including Arnold & Porter, are working with the D.C. Access to Justice Commission on a project called the Senior Attorney Initiative for Legal Services. The program, created by the commission, targets a generation of attorneys who have retired or are on the cusp of retirement — the type of lawyers who at many firms make up a good chunk of the rainmaking roster — to encourage them to stay at their firms, transition commercial work to younger attorneys, and take more pro bono cases in-house.

“It’s a paradigm shift,” said Jess Rosenbaum, (no relation to Robert Rosenbaum) executive director of the D.C. Access to Justice Commission, a group of local judges, lawyers and law professors tasked with helping low- and moderate-income residents access the civil justice system. “It used to be you had a handful of lawyers wanting to transition to pro bono, and they would have to go to a pro bono organization.”

Now, firms are trying to keep those lawyers by providing resources such as office space and staff to support pro bono work. A few, such as Arnold & Porter and Arent Fox, already have “phase-down” programs for senior lawyers to ease into to retirement over several years as they ratchet down chargeable commercial work and ratchet up pro bono involvement.

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