Need an attorney? Chances are greater you’ll get an experienced one — though he or she may not be as technologically savvy as more recent law school graduates. The percentage of lawyers in Illinois between the ages of 50 and 74 has jumped from 22 percent 15 years ago to 39 percent in 2008 and is expected to keeping rising over the next five to 10 years.
Need an attorney? Chances are greater you’ll get an experienced one — though he or she may not be as technologically savvy as more recent law school graduates.
The percentage of lawyers in Illinois between the ages of 50 and 74 has jumped from 22 percent 15 years ago to 39 percent in 2008 and is expected to keeping rising over the next five to 10 years.
Baby boomers continue to show strength in numbers in the state’s legal profession, the annual report of the agency that registers and disciplines lawyers shows.
The report, issued this month, calls the continued increase in the number of lawyers over 50 “the most noticeable change in the legal profession in Illinois.”
“It’s remarkable,” said James Grogan, chief counsel and deputy administrator of the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission. “It’s the baby boomers who are coming into that age range.”
“We anticipate that the percentage over 50 will increase even further,” he said. “Law schools really started putting people in the profession in the early 1980s.”
That doesn’t surprise Sangamon County assistant state’s attorney Jay Magnuson, who is 63.
“There are probably more retail merchants in that age group, too,” he said. “Our generation — starting with baby boomers born Jan. 1, 1946, or after — is the largest, probably the healthiest and longest-living generation.
“By and large, our health is good, and most of us like what we do,” Magnuson said.
Dwight “Cap” O’Keefe, 65 and a partner at Brown, Hay and Stephens, agrees.
“It’s just a matter of whether or not the work you do holds your interest,” he said, noting that his practice consists mostly of estate planning, insurance law, probate and lobbying — all things he likes doing.
“As long as you’re able to contribute,” he said. “I don’t want to work forever, but if you’re doing something you enjoy, it really isn’t work.”
O’Keefe says one of the biggest changes he has had to adapt to is the use of technology.
“I went to school in an age when you found things in a book,” he said. “A couple of years ago, our firm got rid of books.”
O’Keefe said he’s found that Fastcase, a free research service offered by the Illinois State Bar Association to members, “is a wonderful service.”
Magnuson still uses books instead of a computer to do his legal research.
“I’ve kept current for 37 years as I go,” he said. “If it’s an important case, I copy it and put it in the appropriate research file. The younger people up here borrow them.”
Overall, the number of registered attorneys in the state last year increased 1.9 percent over 2007 to 83,881 lawyers. That doesn’t include the 2,323 attorneys who took their oaths of office in late 2008.
“We’re not seeing a huge population increase,” Grogan said. “Just steady, modest growth.”
Sangamon County has the fourth-largest lawyer population of any county in Illinois.
Cook County has 43,761 registered attorneys, while DuPage County is second at 4,075. The next three largest lawyer populations are in Lake County (2,987), Sangamon County (1,129) and Kane County (1,123).
Sangamon County has one less attorney in 2008 than it did in 2007.
Four counties — Calhoun, Edwards, Gallatin and Henderson — had only five attorneys registered.
The ARDC report also notes that 680 lawyers were removed from the roll of attorneys because they didn’t comply with new minimum continuing legal education requirements. About 52,000 lawyers — those whose last names began with the letters A through M — were required to complete MCLE requirements in 2008.
“I can tell you that as of May 1, 105 of the 680 had gotten back in,” Grogan said.
To be reinstated, attorneys must go to the MCLE board with proof they have completed the requirements. They also must pay a fine.
He said the reasons for not completing the requirements on time vary.
“Some have illnesses in their family, some have been ill themselves and some just procrastinate,” he said.
Chris Dettro can be reached at (217) 788-1510 or email@example.com.
Other highlights from the report
*The ARDC docketed 5,897 investigations into alleged attorney misconduct, a 1.5 percent drop from the year before. The top three areas of grievance were allegations of neglect, 44 percent; failing to communicate, 22 percent; and charging an excessive or improper fee, 14 percent.
*The Supreme Court entered 135 sanctions against 131 different lawyers during 2008. More attorneys were disciplined for conduct involving fraud than any other offense.
*As part of this year’s registration process, 13,929 lawyers indicated they had provided about 2.2 million hours of pro bono legal services, including 1.1 million hours directly to persons of limited means. Illinois attorneys also reported contributing nearly $14.8 million in cash contributions to organizations that provide legal services to the poor.