Seymour James' Message to Staff Announcing Retirement

Dear Colleagues, after 43 enriching and rewarding years, I will be retiring from the Society next June. While I will not give up the practice of law, I am looking forward to spending more time with my family and pursuing interests that I have not had the time to explore.

When I joined the Criminal Defense Division in 1974, intending to remain for three years as was the norm at the time, I was intent on providing the highest quality representation to the clients assigned to me and making a difference in their lives. I had that opportunity in my role as a Staff Attorney and tried to achieve that objective for a broader group of clients in each successive role.

I have held a variety of positions during my tenure at the Society. I worked in the Criminal Defense Practice as a Staff Attorney in our main Brooklyn office and in our Bedford Stuyvesant Community Defender Office, a Supervising Attorney in Brooklyn and the Bronx, the Deputy Attorney-in-Charge in Queens and Brooklyn, the Queens Attorney-in-Charge, and the Attorney-in-Charge of the Criminal Practice. Most recently, as you all know, I have been serving the organization as Attorney-in-Chief.

In each position I have been privileged to work with you, some of the most talented and dedicated professionals in the country. Working together we have fought to provide high quality legal representation to those who cannot afford counsel. In doing so, we have not only helped hundreds of thousands of people confronted with some of life’s most difficult challenges, by addressing their needs and improving their lives, but we have also made the legal system fairer and more just.

I am immensely proud of our role in securing equal justice for our clients. Your devotion to our clients and dedication to our mission, to ensure that no one is denied access to justice because of poverty, has continually inspired me during the past forty three years. I hope, in some small way, my work has helped to inspire you and reinforce the values I believe brought each of you to The Legal Aid Society: a desire to make sure our clients receive due process and equal justice and improve of the quality of their lives. Please accept my heartfelt thanks for your commitment, cooperation, and support. It has been an exhilarating experience working with you and learning from you.

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs in staffing and funding, but I am pleased that our organization has been rebuilt to now include a staff of some 2000 people. While there is still more to do, the legislation requiring that caseloads in criminal and child protective proceedings be limited has enabled us to add staff and has enhanced our ability to provide high quality representation to our clients. In addition, the commitment by the City to establish a right to counsel in deportation proceedings and to move towards a right to counsel in housing court will enable us to service significantly more clients in our Civil practice.

It has been an honor and privilege to work at The Legal Aid Society and I will always remember fondly those I had the pleasure of working with. I plan to stay on to ensure a smooth transition for the new Attorney-in-Chief after a search is concluded.

I look forward to seeing you in the coming months to thank you personally for your dedication and hard work and for helping to make my experiences memorable. I know you will continue to fight for our clients as we stand steadfast for justice.

With my warmest regards,