CBJ - December 2009 #06. California attorneys hit 50-year mark.

Author:By Kristina Horton Flaherty,

California Bar Journal


CBJ - December 2009 #06.

California attorneys hit 50-year mark

California Bar JournalDecember 2009California attorneys hit 50-year markBy Kristina Horton Flaherty,Staff WriterA lot has happened since they became California lawyers in 1959. Back then, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president, a first-class postage stamp cost four cents, minimum wage was $1 and secretaries used typewriters. Alaska and Hawaii became states that yean The Barbie Doll hit the marketplace. And the first microchip was invented.

The Vietnam War, man's first walk on the moon and the launch of the personal computer have long since come and gone.

But Cruz Reynoso, Charles Vogel, John Dutton, Spencer Strellis and Suzie Thorn - along with nearly 500 other veteran attorneys - are still members of California's legal profession five decades later More than 200 of them remain active State Bar members. And some are still trying cases.

"It's taken me 50 years to learn what I've learned, more than that if you count law school," points out Auburn sole practitioner John Dutton. "And I want to keep on using it. So long as I can still function, I have no plans to retire."

They applied to law school when only some schools required LSAT scores, and began legal careers when $400 a month was a good starting salary. They've watched the bar's ranks swell from some 21,000 attorneys to more than 220,000. They've seen an increase in laws, litigation and lawyer advertising. And they've seen far more women and minority attorneys finally join the mix.

San Francisco family law attorney Suzie Thorn, 77, recalls being one of just three women in a law school class of 275. Back then, she says, women lawyers were so rare that when she was sworn in as a lawyer, a local news photographer showed up to take her picture. And finding a job in a law firm was no small feat. "Oh gee, you're great," she recalls them saying, "but we don't hire women."

Then, when she joined her father's San Francisco law firm a few years later, some of his clients thought she was there to file his letters, and the secretary nearly quit rather than take orders from a woman. But Thorn paid little attention. "I kept a sense of humor about it," she says now.

And eventually, she built up a family law practice, handling an increasing number of cases that involved international and...

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