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Former N.Y. Chief Judge Joins Skadden ArpsFormer New York Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye began what she called "Chapter 3" of her legal career Monday at Skadden Arps. Kaye, forced to leave the Court of Appeals in December due to mandatory retirement rules, has joined Skadden as of counsel, though she acknowledged she did not yet know exactly what she will do for the firm or how much time that will leave for promoting children's programs, supporting diversity in the legal profession and other causes she championed as chief judge.
New York Law Journal2009-02-18 12:00:00 AM
Kaye, forced to leave the Court of Appeals in December due to mandatory retirement rules, has joined Skadden as of counsel, though she acknowledged she did not yet know exactly what she will do for the firm nor how much time that will leave for promoting children's programs, supporting diversity in the legal profession and other causes she championed as chief judge.
At first, Kaye, 70, said she has to learn the landscape of a large law firm after her 25 years on the Court of Appeals and her more than 15 years as chief judge.
"I have so much to learn about the world of law firms," Kaye said in an interview last week. "Knowing law and practicing law are two different things. And practicing at big firms is different, too."
Kaye was a commercial law specialist and the first female partner at Olwine, Connelly, Chase, O'Donnell & Weyher when she was nominated by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1983 to become the first female member of the Court of Appeals.
"I loved being a lawyer," Kaye said. "I have always been a lawyer, even at the Court of Appeals. I loved trying cases. I tried jury cases. I tried appeals."
However, Kaye said it is unclear whether she will get back into a court to argue on behalf of Skadden clients.
Kaye referred to her pre-judge days as "Chapter 1" of her legal career and her tenure on the Court of Appeals as "Chapter 2."
She will work out of Skadden's New York headquarters at 4 Times Square.
William P. Frank, national legal practice leader for litigation at Skadden, said he also could not predict how Kaye's role at the firm would play out.
"It is too soon to tell," Frank said in an interview. "We welcome her. In effect, she wants to, and we encourage her, to do the public service and pro bono-type of things, but we have also said that a lot of clients will seek her out."
Frank said Kaye's presence at Skadden will be a significant resource to younger attorneys at the firm and, in a general way, an additional boost to the prestige of the firm.
"She is probably one of the best-known jurists in the United States and I think worldwide," Frank said. "It is not just a name, but a name that is very, very well respected by lawyers and non-lawyers worldwide. We are delighted and honored, really, to have her with us and expect her to be with us for many, many years."
Kaye said that she did not want to stop working after leaving the court but did want to work in a stimulating, collegial atmosphere that would remind her of the court.
"One of the reasons that I picked the firm is that I know a lot of people there," she said. "I have good friends there. I think it is logical, rational and wise, I hope in my hindsight, to do this. Retirement is not something that I contemplated, ever."
The firm through a spokesperson declined to say how much Kaye will be paid. As chief judge she earned $156,000 a year.
First-year associates at Skadden are paid a base salary of $160,000 a year.
Kaye said she would be available at all times to lend her expertise to Jonathan Lippman, her former chief administrative judge who was confirmed last week by the Senate as Kaye's successor as chief judge.