Back to the future …

With the lifespan of the average man and woman increasing every year, it won't be unusual in the future to bump into attorneys who have been practicing law for 50 years or more.

According to a 1994 report from the American Bar Foundation, in 1991 there were 81,078 lawyers over the age of 65 in the country.

22,626 were between the ages of 70 and 74, while 26,630 were 75 or older.

And in California, with approximately 18 percent of the nation's lawyers, there are 4,301 attorneys over the age of 75, with 1,346 listed as "active" on the bar's membership rolls.

A little more than half of the 3,218 lawyers between the ages of 70-74 are active members of the bar, while a majority, 3,013 of the 4,583 lawyers ages 65-69, are active.

In 1995, there were 8,521 lawyers in California listed as active members of the bar for 30 or more years. Of that total, 2,823 have been members for 40 years or more and 437 for 50 years or more.

In 1991, the State Bar began to issue certificates of recognition to those attorneys who had been members in good standing for 50 years. 1991 was a catch-up year and 1,928 certificates were sent out.

In 1992, 173 certificates were issued, followed by 105 in 1993, 66 in 1994 and 57 in 1995.

According to the American Bar Foundation report, the age composition of the nation's lawyers has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.

In 1960, the median age of lawyers was 46. In 1971 it declined to 45 and by 1980 to 39. Since 1980, the median age has begun to rise as the large numbers of lawyers admitted in the 1970s and early 1980s entered into their middle years.

By 1985, the median age moved back up to 40 and by 1991 it was up to 41, with median expected to increase as the baby boom lawyers of the 1970s and 1980s begins to age.

The female lawyer population has grown by leaps and bounds in the past two decades. While the male population in 1991 was almost twice as large as it was in 1971, the number of female lawyers increased 16-fold over the same period.

By 1991, two-thirds of all women lawyers were less than 40-years-old, with seven percent over the age of 50. In contrast, 38 percent of men were under 40 and 30 percent over 50.