Not long ago this newsletter [44th Street Notes, A Publication of The Association of the Bar of the City of New York] wrote about attorneys who left the law for more creative passions. But in many cases the opposite occurs, as people who start out in other careers find a law degree is exactly what they need to fulfill life’s goals
All night study sessions, the Socratic method, and financial depletion; all daunting enough for a student right out of college. So why would someone already successful and settled want to take on the challenge of law school later in life? Here is the story of one City Bar member revealing why he left stability and employment behind for study groups, outlines and blue books.
Cold Warrior To Litigator
An attorney who has spent 20 years around cannons, rockets, missiles and nuclear warheads does not get easily rattled when taking a deposition. Ask John Lundin, an artilleryman who rose through the ranks in the U.S. Army from enlisted man to major. A civil litigator for Schlam Stone & Dolan, he marches into court armed with the self-discipline, focus and attention to detail that he acquired in the military.
He noted that he decided to make the Army a career after visiting the border between what was then East Germany and West Germany. “I was deeply moved at seeing the fences, guards, minefields and dogs focused on keeping their own people in,” he remembers. “I became committed to seeing that we were protected from that.”
After almost five years as an enlisted man, he attended Officer Candidate School, serving in, a month other places, Germany, Hawaii and Korea. During a spate of urban terrorist threats in Europe, he was responsible for the security of nuclear warheads. In the first Gulf War, he spent six months in the desert in Saudi Arabia and Iraq, helping run the command post responsible for all artillery in the 101st Airborne Division.
Describing his decision to retire and go to law school, he noted, “At 38, I was already one of the old guys,” he says. “It was time to move on, I wanted to find another job as rewarding, interesting and fun for me, and that provided for my family.”
In 1997, he graduated from Columbia Law School, where he was a Kent Scholar for two of his three years. After law school, he clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco and then spent four years as a litigation associate at Cravath, Swaine & Moore in New York. In 2002, he left Cravath to join Schlam Stone & Dolan.
He believes that, above all, the military gave him perspective: “Our cases are extremely important to our clients and us, and we take them very seriously, but if I lose a motion, it’s not like I compromised the fate of Western democracy. At the end of a day, as an attorney, win or lose, we all walk out of the courtroom basically okay. If course, it would be different if I were defending capital cases.”
While his military years may be behind him, his army experiences undoubtedly shaped his opinions of the current problems regarding the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo. In January his team from the Federal Bar Council Inn of Court made a presentation on the legality of the use of torture, based in part on the City Bar Association’s reports on detention and deportation of suspected terrorists