This article, Graying of the Bar (Seattle Times, 4/10/06) raises some concerns for solo and small firm lawyers reaching the later stages of their careers. As the article describes, state bars are finding that they are investigating more complaints against older lawyers who may be suffering from mental health issues, but continue to practice law. At the same time, the problem of a few older lawyers can spoil things for those older lawyers who remain sharp later into their careers (think, for example, the Supreme Court justices, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s).
If you find yourself working with an older solo or small firm lawyer, or up against one in court who you think might be suffering from a mental health issue, why not reach out and suggest tactfully that they seek help from a bar counseling program. Many of these older lawyers have mentored us and now, as they age, we can return the favor.