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Longest Serving Lawyer in Virginia Turns 100

Stanley Sacks, a Norfolk attorney who has practiced law since 1948, just turned 100 years old. He is the longest-serving attorney in Virginia since the State Bar began keeping records in 1938.

At age 100, Sacks does not get around as easily as he once did. He uses a wheelchair, no longer goes to court and has not been to his firm’s office since before the pandemic.

But Sacks, the senior partner at Sacks & Sacks, works regularly from home, making phone calls with a robust voice and polished demeanor. He typically works 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, mostly at his kitchen table. The challenges of the job, he said, help keep his mind young.

Most of his work involves personal injury cases — talking to his clients and pushing insurance companies to settle. He has had over 70 years of experience with this type of law, so he knows what he is doing.

He reads the medical charts, sometimes involving several doctors, “to acquaint myself with all the injuries my client has,” Sacks said. “The more knowledgeable I am, the more I can discover in those medical records and put that together with what (the client) tells me.”

Sacks then calls the insurance companies and pushes them to settle;  he knows exactly which parts of his client’s case to emphasize, such as those that will come across well to a jury, and which ones to downplay.

Sacks said there are lots of differences between how law is practiced now and how it was practiced when he was a newly-admitted attorney. For one thing, he said, lawyers were not as specialized back then, taking on criminal law, civil law, divorces and other matters.

“A lot of people were solo practitioners,” he said. “And they did a little bit of everything. You had to have the knowledge.”

Moreover, Sacks said, the law was a decidedly white male club back then. Out of a few hundred lawyers in Norfolk at the time, there were only a couple of majority Black law firms in the entire city, with a few lawyers each.

Sacks said the city’s law firms were more centralized near the downtown courthouses rather than scattered around the city, and offline conversations between lawyers and judges were more frequent. “Things were a bit more informal,” he said.

Without Google and legal research websites, lawyers would actually have to read all those law books lining their shelves. “You can get in five minutes on Google what would take me a day to get out those books before,” Sacks said. “No more of that burning the midnight oil going through those books.”

Sacks was one of nine lawyers who founded the Virginia Trial Lawyers Association in 1960, and the only one of the founders who is still alive. That organization now has several thousand members statewide.

Asked if he ever plans to retire, Sacks responded, “Not at all.”

“I want to keep going,” he said. “I don’t know how long, but obviously, I think that’s what enables me to do it at 100 years old. I like it. I enjoy it. You got to have the genes to be able to do it. And I’m lucky with that. But I still have my judgment, and I’m sharp as I ever was, maybe more.”

You can read the longer article about Mr. Sacks here.

If you are a newly admitted New York or New Jersey attorney, be sure to join us at one of our monthly Bridge the Gap CLE web conferences (over Zoom) that satisfy your annual new-admit CLE requirement. We hope you enjoy our programs so much that you continue to take our courses when you are Mr. Sacks’ age. You can also take a look at our updated schedule for our Bridge the Gap programs here.