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7 Cardozo Public Law, Policy, and Ethics Journal 321 (2009)


In his 1998 Fairchild Lecture, Professor Marc Galanter proposed the idea that senior attorneys should be encouraged to undertake "a second 'public service' career" as a way of transitioning to retirement. The logic for encouraging such "Second Acts" in lawyers' careers is compelling. As Professor Galanter has demonstrated, in the coming years, there will be record numbers of attorneys navigating the transition to retirement as the "Baby Boomers" reach their golden years. This substantial body of highly skilled lawyers could have a significant impact on fulfilling unmet needs for legal representation. If even 5% of the practicing attorneys over sixty-five participated in such a program, this would double the number of attorneys working primarily on public interest work by as soon as 2011! Such work could provide personal renewal and fulfillment as a capstone in the careers of this idealistic generation. Moreover, if such a movement were embraced and systematized by the legal profession, it could provide substantial benefits to firms and the profession as a whole. While facilitating the retirement of an unprecedented number of senior attorneys, "Second Acts" programs would allow those senior attorneys to retain contact with their clients while those clients transfer to other attorneys in the firm and allow senior attorneys to focus on training and mentoring junior associates through pro bono work. This work would also help meet the pro bono obligations of the firm and the profession as a whole.

To further explore and facilitate the development of such "Second Acts" programs, the Pro Bono Institute has undertaken a survey of law firms on the magnitude of their current concerns in facilitating the retirement of senior attorneys, benefits to attorneys and firms in establishing such programs, and possible problems to be addressed in the development of such programs. In this essay, we present the results of the Institute's survey, along with the other existing arguments and data supporting the establishment of "Second Acts" programs and suggest how they might most usefully be constructed. In the first section of this essay, we present the existing data and literature concerning the establishment of "Second Acts" programs. This discussion not only summarizes the existing literature, but also serves as a basis for the discussion of our survey. In the second section we present and discuss the results of our survey. These results suggest that there is indeed a need for and interest in "Second Acts" programs that will facilitate the transition of attorneys into retirement with personally and socially meaningful work, and that firms believe that such programs will meet some of the firms' practical business needs. Finally we offer our conclusions regarding the desirability and optimal form of "Second Acts" programs based on our findings.