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Like other law school applicants, Michael Pope took the LSAT, wrote a personal essay and got recommendations from faculty. But unlike the average applicant, the only other test Pope had confronted in the past 50 years was a stress test, and all his undergraduate professors were dead. But these technicalities did not stand in the way of this 76-year-old, who aptly describes himself as a “hurdle jumper.” Pope managed to gather the necessary documents, presented them to Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, and after some cajoling, was admitted, at age 73. “I’m older than the Cardozo building,” proclaimed Pope, who has four children, four grandchildren and is married to Sally Pope, a mediator and an adjunct professor at Cardozo Law School. Pope, a World War II veteran, graduated on Sunday. Now he’ll get in shape for the dreaded bar exam in July. “For someone in their 70′s to voluntarily go to law school gave [the other students] a great sense of inspiration,” said Jonathan L. F. Silver, who taught torts to Pope at Cardozo. It is his contribution to the class and to the life of the law school that have prompted the faculty to award him the Jacob Burns Medal at graduation, an honor bestowed on about 10 graduating students this year, said Silver. Although not interested in practicing law, Pope hopes to better understand lawyers and legal proceedings in order to be a more effective expert witness for construction disputes, something he has been doing for the last decade. A believer in settling disputes without lengthy and expensive trials, Pope wants to bring mediation to the construction industry. Currently, he said, most disputes in that field are handled through litigation. LOOKING AHEAD “I think [alternative dispute resolution] is a way of the future,” he said. According to Pope, ADR is less expensive than litigation, the remedy is administered more quickly and it fosters less animosity among parties. Law school and legal thinking did not come easily to Pope, who spent five decades as an engineer. Trained to unearth the one right answer, Pope found it frustrating to argue both sides of the case. During his moot court competition, he said, his professors jokingly had to remind him that he was not yet a judge but merely training to be a lawyer. According to one of his professors, Pope’s “intensely practical approach to problems” is both his strength and his weakness. And his vast experience — something most law students do not have — was a great benefit to the entire classroom, said Michael Herz, senior associate dean of Cardozo Law School who also had Pope as a student. “He had immediate grasp of how some legal rule operates in the real world,” said Herz. “When you spend more than seven decades on this earth, you bring something to the class that younger students cannot,” he added. AVID READER Born in 1924 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the son of Ukrainian immigrants and the youngest of four boys, Pope said his mother taught him the importance of accumulating knowledge and forced him to read anything he could get his hands on. In 1944, as soon as he graduated from City College of New York with an electrical engineering degree, he enlisted in the Merchant Marine and spent the next two years of World War II serving in the North Atlantic and the Pacific, in charge of his ship’s engine room. After the war, Pope set out to learn about the energy field, starting his own engineering and designing firm, Pope, Evans and Robbins, in 1954. It became a successful, publicly traded company, which at its height had roughly 400 employees in at least four countries. In the late 1980′s Pope sold the business to Parsons Brinckerhoff, a large engineering firm that designed and supervised construction of the original New York City subway system. Among the awards that decorate the shelves of his office near Lincoln Center is one he received in 1979 for developing a pollution-free method for burning solid fuel, called fluidized combustion. Although the sale of his firm brought him financial security, Pope had no intention of calling it quits. Instead, he opened another consulting firm, Robbins Pope and Griffis, which offers advisory services in capital construction markets, in particular, during litigation. Retirement is not a word Pope ever wants to be acquainted with. “I’ve seen bad things happen to my friends who have retired,” he said. “The brain is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Pope said, adding that law school “sharpened my 76-year-old mind.” The still-fit Pope said he bicycles, hikes and fishes. His favorite hobby is making metal sculptures out of high-tech throw-aways from power plants. Always the engineer, Pope even describes himself as a retooled machine that resists obsolescence. “I don’t want to rust away. I will accept wearing away,” he said emphatically.

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