Philip M. Weinstein, Esq.
My name is Philip M. Weinstein. I was admitted to the Rhode Island Bar in November 1968. At the Annual Meeting Luncheon on June 22 I received a plaque commemorating my fifty years as a member of the Rhode Island Bar Association. The impetus for this article was my request of Helen McDonald to speak to my colleagues and their guests at the Annual Meeting Luncheon upon receiving my plaque. Helen suggested that I write an article for the Bar Journal discussing my experience as a lawyer and my life after retirement, which includes my living part of the year in Costa Rica, which I have done for the past 11 years.
I will begin at the beginning of the circumstances that led to my decision to attend law school. It was June 1965 when I recently graduated Boston University and the government was drafting men to serve in the army to fight in Vietnam. The Vietnam War was very controversial and I had attended talks by professors opposed to the U.S. involvement in the War. I decided that the best course of action was to enlist in the Coast Guard, a safe branch of the military. I was rejected due to having flat feet even though I was an avid runner. My college friends were going to attend law school so I applied that July to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Iowa, because my sister and her then husband were going there for one year and I said, why not me too? Shortly after arriving at Drake, I met a woman whom I began to date. She spent afternoons at an inner city settlement house where minority children would go to after school. I soon joined her at the settlement house. This exposure to inner city life led me to transfer to Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. I was in the minority of 10% white students in the law school.
I enjoyed two wonderful years at Howard, becoming friends with fellow students, male and female, many of whom were from the South. My best friend, Clarence J. Jones, was from Montgomery and participated in the march between Selma and Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King. Clarence went onto to become a judge in Connecticut after working at Neighborhood Legal Services and being a partner in a minority law firm. Clarence and I remain close friends to this day. Two of my professors, Herbert O. Reid and Frank D. Reeves, were intimately involved with Thurgood Marshall in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, which established that separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.
Many of my classmates went on to become federal and state court judges, one a Secretary of the Army, another the first black Supreme Court justice in Mississippi, another the long time president of Howard University, and many prominent attorneys. We were a class of 123 students.
I graduated Howard Law in 1968 and decided to return to Providence where I grew up and had attended Hope High School. In November 1968 I was admitted into the Rhode Island Bar. My first but brief job was with the firm of Abedon, Michael-son, Stanzler and Biener. My interest in joining this firm was to work with Milton Stanzler, a legend of the Rhode Island Bar, doing ACLU work. (Milton, in 1962, proposed the creation of a...