Contact: Jon Sullivan
August 13, 2007
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION PROPSOSAL AGAINST AGE DISCRIMANATION WINS NATIONAL APPROVAL
American Bar Association Endorses New York Resolution Against Mandatory Age-Based Retirement for Lawyers
San Francisco, Ca (August 13, 2007) – At the annual meeting of the House of Delegates, the American Bar Association (ABA) today endorsed the recommendation of the New York State Bar Association that calls upon law firms to discontinue the practice of requiring senior lawyers to retire when they reach an arbitrary age. The ABA also agreed that law firms should evaluate senior partners individually based upon the performance criteria used to evaluate other lawyers in the firm.
The New York State Bar Association was the principle sponsor of the recommendation, with immediate past-president Mark H. Alcott, New York City (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP) giving the primary speech in support of the recommendation on the floor of the house. It stemmed from one of Mr. Alcott’s key initiatives as president.
“Senior lawyers should not be forced to leave their firms solely on the basis of age when they have many productive years left and are still making valuable contributions to the firm. Forcing lawyers to retire solely because of age, regardless of performance, regardless of objective criteria, is not an acceptable practice and not in the interests of the legal profession,” Mr. Alcott said.
As New York State Bar Association President in 2006, Mr. Alcott established a Special Committee on “gray” lawyers, chaired by Mark C. Zauderer (Flemming Zulack Williamson Zauderer LLP), to study the issue of mandatory age-based retirement. After a thorough study the Committee could find no legitimate reason to endorse a blanket policy of mandatory retirement. In fact, the Committee found quite the opposite. In a detailed report, which is the basis of the ABA decision, the committee concluded that mandatory retirement – requiring a partner to leave the firm upon reaching an arbitrary age – runs contrary to the wellbeing of law firms and to the legal system as a whole.
The committee went on to find that mandatory age-based retirement is “inconsistent with accepted employment practices in this country” and is “against the best interests of law firms, clients and the profession.”
The Special Committee further concluded:
“Modern experience demonstrates that this practice is both
unwarranted and unwise. A lawyer’s age, standing alone, is not an
appropriate criterion for determining professional capacity or
employment status. A blanket policy of mandatory retirement of law
partners is, at best, shortsighted. It short changes not only the
individual lawyer but the firm and society as a whole.”
“The American Bar Association is the voice of the American legal community and I expect that most firms will take this recommendation quite seriously,” said current New York State Bar Association President Kate Madigan, of Binghamton (Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP). “As lawyers we are committed to the pursuit of fairness and justice. This initiative sends an important message to law firms across the country that retirement policy based on age alone is neither fair, nor just.”
President Madigan added that the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Age Discrimination in the Profession will continue to explore issues related to age discrimination and recommend further reforms in the future.
The 72,000-member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.