My First Ten Years of Retirement

It is hard to believe that the 10th anniversary of my retirement from the practice of law is nearly here. I have no regrets. I made the correct decision. Here is my own grading of how I have met my retirement goals that I set 10 years ago.[1]

Being a good Grandfather. I now have four grandchildren, two in Minnesota and two in Ecuador. My wife and I obviously spend more time with the Minnesota kids, and our Ecuadorian grandson spent last Fall in Minnesota going to school with his cousins. We also frequently have traveled to Ecuador to see our family there although we have decided not to spend significant amounts of time there. I recently took my 10-year old Minnesota grandson to visit two federal judges and some friends at my former law firm and to observe parts of a trial and a court hearing.[2] I leave it to the grandkids to judge me on this goal, but I think I have done a pretty good job. I know I enjoy being a grandfather.

Being a good Father and Husband. I also have been making an effort to be a good father and husband. I am still working at it.

Learning Spanish. I have not taken the time to improve my very limited Spanish ability. I still wish that I were fluent in that language, but do not see myself taking the time to do this. Sorry.

Law Teaching. I had a goal of teaching law in Ecuador. I was interviewed by a university in Quito about teaching law in the English language, but I was not offered a position. My son who lives there went to the interview with me in case I needed an interpreter, and afterwards he said he thought that my positive comments about liberation theology may not have been appreciated by the university officials. In retrospect, I am not unhappy with this result. I would have had to work very hard to organize and teach one or more courses in this foreign country.

Moreover, this development opened the door for my having the opportunity to co-teach one course (international human rights law) at the University of Minnesota Law School for nine years (2002-10). This built on my experience as a federal court litigator and as a pro bono asylum lawyer. It also allowed me to work with, and become friends of, other professors at the Law School and many U.S. and foreign students. One of the foreign students was a Hubert Humphrey Fellow from Brazil who was a Professor of Law and Criminology at the Catholic university in Rio de Janeiro, and at her subsequent invitation, I presented a paper on the Truth Commission for El Salvador at a conference in Rio in 2009. In addition, through my work at the University of Minnesota I developed a strong interest in, and some expertise about, the International Criminal Court, and I have made many presentations about the ICC and have served as the Provisional Organizer for the Minnesota Alliance for the ICC.[3]

I recently decided that I would retire from this teaching job even though I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I wanted to have more time for writing as discussed below.

Human rights legal work. Without the support of a law firm, including its professional liability insurance, I decided I was not able to do pro bono legal work in retirement. But as mentioned above, I have been able to teach human rights and learn more about the subject myself. I also have developed an interest in the ICC and found a way to make use of that interest.

News “distributor.” Although not one of my goals from 2001, I have developed a practice in retirement of regularly reading many news sources online (New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post (Politics page), Wall Street Journal, Guardian (from the U.K.) and Granma (English translation of Cuba’s major national newspaper) and occasionally others (New York Review of Books, Atlantic and Harpers). After doing this for a while, I started sending by email interesting articles on human rights, the ICC, immigration, Cuba and Africa to friends who were interested in these subjects.

Arbitrator. Another retirement activity I had not anticipated in 2001 was being an arbitrator. But I have done so for disputes between investors and financial firms through the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (FINRA; f/k/a National Association of Securities Dealers), usually as chair of a panel of three arbitrators, and I have enjoyed this challenge. I try to act like the arbitrators and judges I respected in my practice: fair, impartial, respectful of the law, organized, decisive and clear (unlike some of the judges on the TV show “The Good Wife”).

Recently, however, I decided that I no longer wanted to spend my time working on other people’s problems and will not take any more cases. Sounds like my 2001 decision to retire from practicing law.

Obituary writer. Yet another surprising development over the last half-year has been being an obituary writer. As a member of my Grinnell College class’ 50th reunion committee, I have been responsible for writing or commissioning obituaries for our 53 deceased classmates. This used my factual research and writing skills from lawyering. I also came to see this activity in some cases as one of pastoral care for the families of the departed.

International travel. In addition to many trips to Ecuador and my trip to Brazil, my wife and I have been on many other fascinating international trips in the last 10 years. They include an Elder Hostel trip about Mozart to the Czech Republic and Austria, Turkey, Spain, England and Scotland, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Canada, Mexico, El Salvador and Peru plus my church mission trips to Cuba and Cameroon. These were great, educational experiences.  I was really glad that I was in good health to be able to take these trips. I also have been able to chair a committee that supervises the global partnerships of Westminster Presbyterian Church.

Historical research and writing. I wanted to conclude my research about Joseph Welch and Edward Burling and write articles about them. I have done so, as was mentioned in a prior post.[4] I will share some of the key points of that research in future posts. On the other hand, I have not yet been able to do additional research on two of my ancestors, but it is still a goal.

Personal journal and memoirs. I have not been able to make much progress on the goal of writing a personal journal and memoirs. I was hung up on the issue of how do I organize or structure such a writing project. Recently, however, I started this blog and have found it a great way to do the writing that I wanted to do. I do not have to worry about how I might organize all of these thoughts. It is really exciting to be able to write this blog.

Physical exercise. I have been more diligent in my personal exercise program although I should be doing more.

Financial planning and management. With the assistance of an able investment professional, I have developed appropriate methods for financial planning and management for retirement. Like nearly everyone else, we suffered financially in the recent deep recession, but we have made progress since then. I know that I am fortunate when I read articles about the many people who have not saved enough for retirement or who lost their pensions or retirement savings in the recent deep recession or through collapse of their former employers or financial fraud or who struggle to survive with investments in bank CD’s or federal securities that now pay virtually nothing in interest.

In short, I am happy with my efforts to meet my retirement goals over the last 10 years. Now I need to continue my pursuit of these now modified goals during the next phase of my life.


[1] Post: Retiring from Lawyering (4/22/11).

[2] This trip to the federal courthouse and my former law firm was inspired, in part, by recent comments of Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. Post: Tip for Grandparents (4/11/11).

[3] The Minnesota Alliance is part of the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court or AMICC, http://www.amicc.org.

[4] Post: Adventures of a History Detective (4/5/11).

 

Superior Elementary Education

My 10-year-old grandson is a fifth grader at Lakes International Language Academy (LILA) in Forest Lake, Minnesota. LILA, a public elementary school that strongly emphasizes Spanish language immersion, is an International Baccalaureate World School that uses the IB’s Primary Years Programme as its curriculum model.

He recently embarked on an Individualized Learning Program (ILP). In the ILP, the student suggests a topic for investigation to the school’s Enrichment Coordinator, who quizzes the student about what the student already knows about the matter and then determines whether the student appears to be ready to tackle the topic. After approval of the topic, the student conducts research on the topic and then prepares a report on the topic to the student’s class.

My grandson proposed Libya’s current civil war and conflict for his topic. He did so because he regularly follows national and international news in the newspapers and on the radio and knew about the recent uprisings in the Middle East, including Libya, and he wanted to learn more. The Coordinator asked him questions about Libya and concluded that he already knew a lot about the situation and that he could proceed with the ILP on Libya.

His further research about Libya was done by reading the local newspaper and doing Google Internet searches. He also obtained information from “This American Life” on Minnesota Public Radio. He then started preparing a PowerPoint presentation on Google docs that allows the Coordinator to review his progress. My grandson has entitled his presentation “Libyan Civil War and Revolts–NATO Coalition Bombing.”

The ILP has enabled him to learn more about the current situation in Libya, to practice and improve his skills at Google searching and other research, English language writing and oral presentations. Doing all of this independently with modest supervision, he said, “made me happy.”

Retiring from Lawyering

Ten years ago I was contemplating early retirement from the practice of law. I systematically tried to analyze the pros and cons of such a decision and summarized these thoughts in an essay that a friend used in a seminar for other lawyers.[1] I discussed the issues with friends at college and law school reunions.

I was inclined to continue my legal career because it was the more financially secure option, because I enjoyed (for the most part) the challenges presented to a lawyer that were discussed in a prior post and because it was difficult to give up the status and sense of identity of being a lawyer.[2]

On the other hand, the previously discussed negative aspects of practicing law said, “retire.” So too did the increasing stresses of the lawyer’s life.[3]

This thinking and these discussions lead to my decision to retire 10 years ago. Most important for me were two points. First was the realization that the longer you worked, the shorter would be your life after full-time working along with the greater risk that you would not be in as good as health later. Second was the question: what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Continue focusing as a lawyer on trying to help others with their problems? Or focus on your own life? Clearly I wanted to focus on my own life while I still had good health.

My decision to retire was confirmed at a worship service at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago on North Michigan Avenue immediately after my law school reunion. The topic of the sermon “Called” by Rev. John Buchanan was vocation. The Biblical texts were Jeremiah 1:4-10 [4]and Mark 1:16-20.[5] Throughout our lives, Rev. Buchanan said, we should strive to discern what God is calling us to do with our lives, and then we need to respond to that call.

Here are the personal retirement goals I set for myself 10 years ago:

  • Be a good grandfather to a grandson in Minnesota and a grand-daughter (and another grandchild on the way) in Ecuador.
  • Be a good father to two adult sons and a good husband.
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Teach law in Ecuador in the English language and spend more time in that country.
  • Do more international travel.
  • Continue to do human rights legal work in some way.
  • Conclude my research about Joseph Welch and Edward Burling and two of my ancestors and write articles about them, as was mentioned in a prior post.[6]
  • Write a personal journal and memoirs.
  • Be more disciplined in physical exercise.
  • Develop appropriate financial planning and management for retirement.

In making this decision, I recognized that I was very fortunate to be in a position where I could afford to retire. I did not have to continue working in order to be able to put food on the table and have a roof over our heads.


[1] Krohnke, Who, me, retire? A Recently Retired Lawyer’s Reflections on Retirement (June 2001), http://www.acrel.org/Documents/Seminars/Whome.htm. I hope this essay is helpful for lawyers and others who are contemplating retirement.

[2]  Post: Ruminations on Lawyering (4/20/11).

[3]  Id.

[6]  Post: Adventures of an History Detective (4/5/11).

Ruminations on Lawyering

Practicing law, especially litigation, had many rewards.

It was challenging. Tactics and strategy had to be developed and implemented. You had to know or quickly learn many different areas of the law. You had to learn about new business practices and industries. You had to become skilled at investigating factual issues through the formal litigation discovery processes and otherwise. This includes the skill of asking questions, especially on cross-examination.

You had to pull all the factual and legal pieces together into an effective and persuasive story and argument. You had to be able to present these arguments, in writing and orally, to your adversaries and the courts. You had to be able to persuade others–judges, juries, other lawyers, clients, witnesses and opponents. You had to be able to think on your feet. You had to organize and manage a team working on the case.

In all of this you needed to develop and maintain the trust and confidence of your clients as you guided them through the very stressful litigation process. It was like a multi-dimensional chess game.

Nor can I forget that this work was financially remunerative.

Such legal practice, however, has its negative side.

In order to be an effective advocate, you needed to understand and empathize with your client and have some emotional identification with the client. At the same time, you needed to have emotional separation from the client so that you could be the analytical professional counselor who could point out weaknesses in the case to your client and develop an overall assessment of the case. This balancing act is not easy and is very stressful.

There was always the fear at least in the back of your mind:  did I forget or overlook something important or just get it wrong? (If you did, you can be sure your opponent or the court will point it out.)

When a case has not settled and the time for trial approaches, you shift into a higher gear where preparation for trial becomes nearly an all-consuming endeavor. When the trial actually starts, you shift into an even higher gear. During a full day in the courtroom, you are an actor in a drama that you also are co-directing: you are asking questions, making objections and arguing issues with opposing counsel to the judge while in the back of your mind you are trying to digest what has been happening  and thinking about what is coming next. When the day in court is over, you retreat to your office or hotel room to start preparing for the next day: doing additional preparation of witnesses, supplementing your own preparation and revising tactics and strategy for the rest of the trial in light of what happened at trial that day. Early the next morning before going to court, you continue this preparation, often over new ideas that kept you from sleeping during the night. Somehow you also try to sleep and eat enough food to keep going. Need I say, this is stressful.

Most cases settle, and when they settle while you are in the trial preparation or actual trial mode, there is both relief and disappointment. Relief that you do not have to go through the remaining agony of a trial. Disappointment that you are not able to use all of the work that you have done to get ready for trial and to test yourself in the crucible of the trial.

Moreover, increasingly over my years of practice, some opposing lawyers in cases were exceptionally difficult people. Some, I thought, developed a modus operandi of trying to get under their opponents’ skin and thereby distract them from the case at hand and to intimidate them. Some were dishonest. Moreover, you could not get away from this other person; by the necessities of the case, you had to have continuous dealings with the person. In one case, I had dreams (nightmares?) of pushing an opposing lawyer off a cliff.

Judges could also be thorns in your side, especially when setting deadlines or dates for hearings or trials that interfered with your previously arranged personal plans.

I came to understand that the U.S. litigation process usually drives the opposing parties further apart, rather than produce reconciliation. In addition, when a case was finally over, even when you had obtained a favorable result for your client, you understood that the client was at least privately thinking that he or she hoped they would never have to see you again because if they did that would mean they were involved in another stressful and expensive lawsuit. Who needs or wants a headache?

In reaction to these negatives of the litigation process, I became interested in alternative dispute resolution. I studied ADR and became a mediator and arbitrator. I also served as an officer of the ADR Section of the Minnesota State Bar Association. I wrote articles about ADR, especially its ethical issues. Eventually, however, I concluded that it was too easy to become an ADR “true believer” focused on the processes of resolving disputes and that did not provide personal satisfaction.

After 20 years of practicing law, by happenstance or the will of God, I was presented with a case for the American Lutheran Church that opened the door for me to international human rights law. That case and my further work in this area of the law will be subjects of future posts.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son and His Older Brother

In my teenage years as a dutiful only child, I identified with the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.[1] He remained at home working on the farm while his younger brother was dissipating his advance inheritance in a far country. Yet their father throws a big party for the younger brother when he returns home.  Like the older son, I just could not understand the totally unjustified favorable treatment of the wayward younger son. Like the older son, I was angry with the father and the younger brother over this injustice.

Many years later, however, I could see myself as the younger son in the Parable. As a college freshman I began rebelling against organized religion and the spiritual life. During my subsequent 24 years in a distant country, I clung “to what the world proclaims as the keys to self-fulfillment: accumulation of wealth and power; attainment of status and admiration; lavish consumption of food and drink . . . . It’s almost as if I want[ed] to prove to myself . . . that I did not need God’s love, that I could make a life on my own, that I want[ed]to be fully independent. Beneath it all was the great rebellion, the radical ‘No’ to the Father’s love . . . .”[2]

When I came to my senses and returned home, my rebellion and other sins were forgiven by God, who was waiting, saw me when I was still a long way off and ran to welcome me home. “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see.”[3]

Each of us often experiences life as a succession of unrelated events. Such events, however, are the raw material of our spiritual pilgrimage. Discernment of the spiritual significance of these events requires us to pause to reflect on how God appears in our lives. We can aid this task by putting ourselves into the stories of the Bible and by allowing the words of great hymns to speak to us.


[2] Henri Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son at 38-39 (1992).

[3]  John Newton, Amazing Grace Lyrics, http://www.constitution.org/col/amazing_grace.htm.

Lawyering in Minneapolis

From April 1970 through June 2001, I practiced law with the Minneapolis office of the eminent Faegre & Benson law firm, first as an associate and then as a partner and of counsel. I was in its business litigation group and handled many kinds of cases, including dealer/distributor terminations, securities fraud, antitrust, copyright, trade secrets and contract. I also assisted in drafting dispute resolution provisions for contracts prepared by others in the firm.

When I joined Faegre in 1970, the firm, as I recall, had approximately 50 lawyers in its only office in Minneapolis. Today it has nearly 500 lawyers in Minneapolis and five additional offices (Des Moines, Denver, Boulder, London and Shanghai). This year it celebrates its 125th anniversary. (www.faegre.com.)

I particularly liked being in a large law firm. Large firms tended to get the more challenging and remunerative cases. I could easily obtain assistance from other lawyers who specialized in different aspects of the law or who could discuss difficult tactical and strategic problems. Faegre also encouraged its lawyers to provide pro bono legal services. Moreover, I did not have to participate in managing all of the firm’s many business details. Practicing law itself took a large hunk of my time, and I did not want to pile on the additional time necessary for management.  I, however, did participate in the work of some of the firm’s committees–Alternative Dispute Resolution and Legal Assistants.

Over 31 years there are too many fellow lawyers at the firm with whom I had excellent professional relations to mention them all. Instead I will just call out a few of my seniors from my group in the firm: John French, who had been President of the Harvard Law Review, a U.S. Supreme Court clerk for Justice Frankfurter and a leader of Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer Labor Party; Larry Brown; Gordon Busdicker; Norman Carpenter; and James B. Loken, who had clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Byron White and been an assistant to President Richard Nixon and is now a Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

On Thanksgiving Day of 1982 Minneapolis had the largest fire in its history. It started in the demolition site of a former downtown department store and soon engulfed most of the adjacent Northwestern National Bank Building that housed the Faegre offices. That bitterly cold night my wife and I went to watch the fire and saw flames shooting out the windows of my office on the 13th floor. (The next week we in hard hats were escorted to my floor where I found my completely destroyed office and here and there a few fragments of papers from my files. For several weeks thereafter I had nightmares of being caught in the fire.) Amazingly the firm opened for business the following Monday in new offices in the nearby IDS Center. The other attorneys and I immediately set out to recreate the files in our active cases and files by requesting copies from clients, other attorneys and the courts. Luckily by then the firm used computers to record and manage the firm’s billable hours, i.e., its inventory of unbilled time, and stored a duplicate set of the computer records in another building. Previously the firm’s records of unbilled time  had been manually recorded on heavy-stock paper and maintained in three-ring binders all over the office; they probably would have been destroyed in the fire. Such unbilled time is a major asset of a law firm, and the loss of such an asset probably would have doomed the firm.

Some of my cases over these 31 years cases are memorable and important and will be discussed in future posts. They include cases involving issues of constitutional law and contract, auditor’s liability, international arbitration, securities fraud, copyright, patents and trade secrets. In addition, in the mid-1980’s I became a pro bono (no fee) lawyer for foreigners seeking asylum in the U.S.; as will be seen in a subsequent post, this has had, and continues to have, an enormous impact on my professional, political and religious life.

Questioning President Lyndon Johnson

In March 1966, during my final semester of law school, I was one of 38 national finalists for 16 White House Fellowships. This fellowship program had been started in 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson to provide one-year high-level positions in the White House and Executive Branch to future leaders so that afterwards the individuals could take that experience into their regular jobs and be better informed about important public policy issues and the workings of the federal government and, therefore, be better citizen leaders.[1]

 

East Room, White House

The other finalists and I were brought to a Virginia retreat center for interviews by members of the Fellows Commission, including John Gardner (then U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Department) and C. Douglas Dillon (former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Department). Afterwards on March 29th we all were bused to the White House and mid-afternoon were escorted to the East Room where the winners would be announced.

Before the announcement, however, President Johnson unexpectedly entered the Room. He first joined his daughter Luci Baines Johnson, who was substituting for her ill mother, to greet the finalists. The President then walked around, shaking hands and making individual comments. Johnson then called for everyone’s attention. He said that when he was a young man in Washington, he always wondered what it would be like to come to see the president and what the president would say while the young Johnson knew what he hoped the president would say. Johnson then remarked that perhaps the finalists would like to ask him questions rather than hearing him give a dry lecture.[2]

There was an awkward silence. The other finalists and I were hesitant to ask the first question, and Johnson told a few jokes to loosen up the people in the Room.

Finally one of the finalists asked what previous presidents would have been selected as Fellows if there had been such a program in their day. Johnson laughingly replied that Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Kennedy undoubtedly would have been selected, but he did not think that Truman and Johnson himself would have made it. Other finalists asked Johnson questions about the Viet Nam war, the current visit to Washington of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Fellowship program itself.[3]

Lyndon Johnson & Bill Moyers

Word of this impromptu presidential question and answer session got back to the White House Press Room, and journalists belatedly arrived and stood at the back of the Room taking notes. Johnson’s Press Secretary, Bill Moyers, was next to Johnson during the session and kept trying to end it, but Johnson was enjoying himself and continued to respond to questions.

During this session I was standing about 10 feet from President Johnson. There was concern at the time about inflation with the February 1966 Consumer Price Index up 0.5%, the highest increase in that month since 1951, and whether the President would ask Congress for a tax increase to fight inflation. So I asked the President if he would be seeking such a tax increase.

Tugging at his big right ear lobe, Johnson responded in a folksy manner in his Texan drawl. He first said that he was more worried about economists than he was about the economy and that he had not made up his mind on the tax increase idea. He added that he did not want to ask for an increase, especially in a midterm election year, but if he decided a tax increase was necessary to cool off the economy, he would ask Congress for a “modest” rise of 5 to 7 per cent in the taxes paid by individuals and corporations. Johnson also said he had ruled out reductions in federal government spending and wage and price controls as other ways to combat inflation.[4]

The President’s Daily Diary for that day says that this answer and his “mention of the Tax Rise to be proposed” was the headline in many newspapers the next day, as indeed it was.[5]

This news the next morning prompted a sharp decline in the stock market–the largest in two weeks. Reacting to this market decline, the President around noon on March 30th told journalists that he “absolutely” had not made up his mind about the need for a tax increase. The market responded with a momentary uptick, but it closed lower that day.[6] Thereafter I joked that I caused the stock market to fall.

At the conclusion of the meeting the prior day in the State Dining Room, the announcement of the 18 new Fellows was made.[7] I was not one of the lucky ones.


[1] White House, White House Fellows, http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/fellows.

[2] Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Daily Diary Collection (March 29, 1966), http://www.lbjlibrary.org/collections/daily-diary.html.

[3]  Id.

[4] Id.; Pomfret, Johnson Favors 5-to-7% Tax Rise If Any Is Needed, N. Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10B12FC3F59177B8EDDA90B94DB405B868AF1D3;  Rossant, Flexibility and Taxes; Johnson’s Hint of Relaxing Opposition To Rise Is Gain for ‘New Economists,’ N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10D11FE3E59177B8EDDA90B94DB405B868AF1D3; Wicker, The Inflation Debate, N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F1071FFD3F59177B8EDDA90B94DB405B868AF1D3;  Editorial, The Economy’s Pulse, N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10617F83F59177B8EDDA90B94DB405B868AF1D3.

[5] Id.

[6]  Abele, Tax Uncertainty Upsets Markets, N.Y. Times, Mar. 31, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10D15F63959177B8EDDA80B94DB405B868AF1D3.

[7] Capital Fellows End a Year at Top, N.Y. Times, Mar. 30, 1966, http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F10E1FFD3F59177B8EDDA90B94DB405B868AF1D3.

Encounters with Candidates JFK and LBJ

In the summer of 1960 I was an assistant to Donald “Duke” Norberg, the Chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party. I, therefore, witnessed the run-up in Iowa to the national Democratic Party’s July 1960 convention in Los Angeles.

Before the convention Senators John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson were the leading contestants for the Party’s presidential nomination.

Lyndon B. Johnson

On June 19th LBJ and his wife, Lady Bird Johnson, came to Des Moines to woo the Iowa convention delegates. At a luncheon at the Hotel Fort Des Moines, LBJ emphasized the need for dynamic national leadership. He said that religion was not an issue whereas it undoubtedly was because Kennedy was Roman Catholic. Johnson then implicitly contradicted his own point by noting  that he was accompanied by some of his Texas supporters; one, he said, was a Methodist, one an Episcopalian, one a Jew and one a Roman Catholic who had been knighted by Pope Pius XII. Johnson stressed that the U.S. had lost friends in the world as well as military power and that the president had to make foreign policy decisions. In an implicit criticism of Kennedy who recently had said that at the May 1960 U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit meeting President Eisenhower should have apologized to Khrushchev for the then recent U.S. U-2 spy plane’s flight over the Soviet Union that the Soviets had shot down, LBJ said that the U.S. should not have apologized. Such an apology, Johnson said, was not in line with what America stood for.

Before the luncheon, Mrs. Johnson worked the room. She visited people at different tables and asked if they knew some of the Johnson’s friends from their various home towns. This was a demonstration of the Johnson campaign’s good organization. The following day I drove one of Johnson’s assistants, Cliff Carter, to visit some of the Iowa delegates who could not make the luncheon. Carter asserted that although Kennedy was leading in national delegate support, he would fade on the third ballot after a high of 640 while LBJ would gain strength so that by the third ballot he would have over 800 delegates to win the nomination.

John F. Kennedy

A week later, June 26th, JFK came to Des Moines for a reception at the Hotel Savery. I was not able to be in the room with Kennedy and the Iowa delegates. But I did see him in the hotel lobby and noticed the palpable excitement as he walked to the meeting. I overheard someone say, “Here is another Roosevelt.”

On July 13, 1960, the Los Angeles convention nominated Kennedy for president on the first ballot with 806 votes (or 52.9%). It then nominated Johnson for Vice President. In Kennedy’s July 15th acceptance speech he said, “The New Frontier of which I speak is not a set of promises– it is a set of challenges. It sums up not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.”

In the November election, JFK and LBJ won the national popular vote by 113,000 votes over Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge out of a total vote of 68,831,000. In Iowa, however, Nixon/Lodge won with 56.7% of the vote; Kennedy/Johnson only carried six of the 99 counties in the state.

This experience before my senior year at Grinnell College was financed by its Program in Practical Politics.

Lawyering on Wall Street

From June 1966 through April 1970, I was a Wall Street lawyer. I was an associate attorney with the law firm of  Cravath, Swaine & Moore.[1] Its offices then were on the 56th through 58th floors of the Chase Manhattan Bank Building one block from the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street. From my office window I could see the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.

Cravath then was considered a large law firm with approximately 100 lawyers, as I recall. Its system was to hire top graduates of the top law schools and to put them in a “class” of their contemporaries to compete for one of the very few partnership slots after seven or so years.

I decided to join Cravath after a summer clerkship in 1965 that I had enjoyed. The firm was regarded as the crème de la crème of law firms. Its starting salary of $9,000 ($62,235 in current Dollars) was the best. Living in New York City sounded exciting. The practice of some Wall Street lawyers becoming high government officials was an alluring dream that I hoped to fulfill. For example, John Foster Dulles was such a lawyer with another firm who became Secretary of State in the Eisenhower Administration, and Roswell Gilpatric was a Cravath partner when I was there who had been Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy Administration.

While I was at Cravath, it jumped the starting pay of its lawyers to $15,000 ($95,550 in current Dollars). This was such startling news that it was covered by the Wall Street Journal. Those of us who already were associates received a similar bump in pay. My wife and I thought we were rich and moved from our Brooklyn Heights apartment to the first two floors of a row home several blocks away.

I was in Cravath’s litigation department or group. I initially was assigned to Partner John R. Hupper, who was an excellent, careful, kind man and an excellent teacher and mentor for young lawyers. I also worked for other equally capable partners, including Thomas D. Barr, Frederick A. O. “Fritz” Schwarz, Jr. of the toy store family and Albert R. Connelly. The senior partner of the group, Bruce Bromley, who was called “Judge” Bromley because of his service in the New York courts, was another capable lawyer for whom I worked. Much to my subsequent regret I did not know at the time that Bromley was instrumental in the Eisenhower Administration’s selection of Joseph Welch to be the Army’s lawyer in the 1954 McCarthy hearings. Given my personal interest in Welch, which will be discussed in a subsequent post, I would have loved to have talked with Bromley about this important piece of U.S. history.

The more senior associates really did a lot of the supervision of the newer lawyers. I fondly remember some of them: Eugene P. Souther, who later became a partner in another Wall Street law firm; Victor M. Earle, III, who became the first general counsel of one of the big accounting firms (Peat Marwick); Robert E. Bouma, who became a partner in a Chicago law firm; Dorsey D. “Dan” Ellis, Jr., who became a law professor at the University of Iowa and then Dean of the Law School at the University of Washington at St. Louis; George J. Wade, who became a partner in another Wall Street law firm; and Alan J. Hruska, who became a Cravath partner.

I got along with the other young associates in the litigation group even though we all knew we were in competition with one another. Since I was there only four years, however, the real competition started after I left. My best friends and contemporaries were Jay Gerber and Arnold Messing, who later were successful lawyers with other firms in New York City and Boston respectively, along with Howard J. Kristol, who became a partner in a Wilmington, Delaware law firm, and David S. Cupps, a subsequent partner in a Columbus, Ohio law firm.

Another contemporary in the litigation group was David Boies, who later became a famous Cravath partner who defended CBS in a libel case by General Westmoreland regarding the Vietnam War. Some of his other famous cases were as the U.S. Government lawyer who destroyed the credibility of Bill Gates in cross-examination in the Microsoft antitrust case and as the lead lawyer for Al Gore in the litigation against George W. Bush over the 2000 election in Florida.  The New York Times Sunday Magazine in June 1986 put David’s photo on its cover for its lead article about him, “The Litigator.” My wife and I were guests of David and his wife in their Washington Square apartment on the night in 1969 that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was always amazed that David was able to combine the stressful life of the young associate with teaching antitrust law at N.Y.U. Law School and having season’s tickets to the Metropolitan Opera. On a trip to Minneapolis for a pretrial conference in the IBM antitrust cases, David, several other associates and I gathered in one of our hotel rooms for cards and room-service dinner. To my surprise, David ordered two dinners; he was never overweight or heavy, and I assumed that his metabolism rate was so high that he needed super quantities of food. David is still going strong. As the lead partner now in his own law firm, he recently was in St. Paul, Minnesota as the lead lawyer for the NFL in litigation over the football teams owners’ work stoppage.[2]

Under the Cravath system, it took a long time for a new lawyer to be able to do anything by himself. My first court argument was on a motion in a small case in the state trial court in Manhattan (New York Supreme Court). I do not remember the case or what my motion was. But I do remember the huge courtroom with hundreds of lawyers milling around and waiting for their cases to be called. While I was waiting, I heard an argument on a defendant’s motion for more definite statement in the complaint that starts a lawsuit. The pro se plaintiff (one without a lawyer) was a rabbi, and the judge said, “Rabbi, please hire a lawyer. You have written a novel, not a complaint.”

There were two notable cases that claimed my attention in New York that will be discussed in subsequent posts. One was Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.’s lawsuit over his 1967 exclusion from the U.S. House of Representatives. The other was the set of antitrust cases against IBM over its System/360 computers.

Being a Wall Street lawyer for four years was challenging and exciting. So too was living in New York City with a wife and two young sons. I value those years, but am still glad that I decided against staying for the competition for partnership at Cravath and instead chose to move to Minneapolis to practice law with Faegre & Benson.


[1] Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, http://www.cravath.com/; Cravath, Swaine & Moore, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cravath,_Swaine_%26_Moore.

Tip for Grandparents

 

Mary Robinson, the former U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, offered a tip for grandparents in remarks last week in Minneapolis.

Responding to a question as to how she first became interested in human rights, she credited her grandfather. When she was only 10 to 12 years old, she said she loved going to his law office. There she saw his library of law books and heard him talk about the law, his cases and how law could be used to address human problems. She concluded at her young age that she would become a lawyer who would use law to address human problems.

Robinson also remarked that her grandfather did not know how to talk to children. I disagree. Her own testimony proves that her grandfather knew exactly how to talk with his grand-daughter. It is a powerful tip to a grandparent like me. Do not underestimate the talents of your grandchildren. Talk with them about serious subjects in an adult manner.