A Passion for Solving Problems
When Judge Stanley Sporkin stepped down from the federal bench in 2000 at the age of 68, he decided not to retire. That proved fortuitous because a wave of corporate corruption cases was about to wash into the legal system.
Both government and the securities industry turned to Sporkin in the wake of Enron, WorldCom, and other scandals, and he advised regulators on how to prevent such disasters. He was consulted as Congress drafted the landmark Sarbanes- Oxley reform law. Sporkin had hounded Wall Street wrongdoers in 20 years at the Securities and Exchange Commission, and he's convinced that now, as then, strong policing of "gatekeepers" like accountants, lawyers, and investment banks is needed.
After 14 years on the federal bench, Sporkin tried something new--private law practice--after turning down more-lucrative corporate offers. "I didn't want just one client," he says. "I wanted to be able to see a wide range of problems. As we age, we become better problem solvers, and that is a lot of the work of a lawyer." He says his family (including five grandchildren) supports his long work hours and frequent travel. "The last thing they want is for me to be hanging around," he says. "They know I need to do this."
Sporkin has always looked for new approaches and legal "theories." Since such work requires common sense and wisdom that grow with age, he feels he still has something to contribute. "Am I now going to come out with another blockbuster theory?" asks Sporkin. "Maybe so, maybe not. But I'm still striving."
This story appears in the June 12, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.