Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Sixty-one years into law career, Garland has no plans to slow down

Associates describe James P. Garland’s breadth of knowledge as that of ‘Jedi Master Yoda,’ and colleagues at Miles & Stockbridge PC still come to him to practice their arguments in a moot court fashion. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Associates describe James P. Garland’s breadth of knowledge as that of ‘Jedi Master Yoda,’ and colleagues at Miles & Stockbridge PC still come to him to practice their arguments in a moot court fashion. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

James P. Garland started practicing law at a time when yellow legal pads were commonplace and computer keyboards were decades away. But after 61 years in the profession, Garland has no plans to slow down. Asked if he still maintains a full work schedule, he responded, “I cut out working Saturdays.”

Garland, 85, attends retirement parties for people 20 years younger and he can hardly think of colleagues his age who still practice law.

“I’m an outlier,” Garland said.

His colleagues agree. The Senior Lawyers Section of the Maryland State Bar Association named Garland its Senior Lawyer of the Year on Sunday for his contributions to the Bar.

“He’s truly notable because for someone his age to still be actively engaged in the practice at a large law firm is virtually unheard of in these days,” said Rob Ross Hendrickson, chairman of the Senior Lawyers Section, which gave Garland several plants instead of a plaque to mark the award due to Garland’s love of gardening.

A principal at Miles & Stockbridge PC in Baltimore, Garland has been at the firm for almost 25 years, concentrating on telecommunications, general business litigation and labor and employment. He also serves as the firm’s deputy general counsel. Previously, Garland was at Semmes, Bowen & Semmes for 37 years, which included a three-year sabbatical as a Maryland assistant attorney general, an opportunity given to promising young associates.

“It was an opportunity to handle some very important matters,” Garland said.

In the attorney general’s office, Garland took on the savings and loan crises in the early 1960s. He was tasked with examining the industry and looking into fraudulent operators who advertised schemes on matchbook covers, many of which were Ponzi schemes and involved manufactured numbers. The case had Garland in courthouses in every county in the state, building his reputation as respected trial lawyer.

Work-life balance

Garland’s colleagues still marvel at his abilities as a trial attorney.

“I’ve thought often that I’m very fortunate I’ve never been cross-examined by Jim,” said Jeffrey P. Reilly, a principal and general counsel at Miles & Stockbridge. “He has never asked a question he didn’t know the answer to.”

Attorneys come to him to practice their arguments in a moot court fashion.

“He has incredible insights,” said Kathleen Pontone, a principal at Miles & Stockbridge, who also worked under Garland at Semmes.

Long before working out of the office became commonplace, Garland was an advocate for making family-friendly work arrangements.

Pontone recalled being partner when she had her second child, and Garland advised her to hire help and to take time to spend with her family, even letting her work remotely. Garland himself is married with three children, including two lawyers, and seven grandchildren.

“He was fabulous at predicting what’s coming next,” Pontone said.

Associates describe his breadth of knowledge as that of “Jedi Master Yoda,” said Anthony Kraus, principal at Miles & Stockbridge who has known Garland for more than 40 years.

“The breadth of knowledge and resources that he brings to the firm are unique and would be irreplaceable,” he said.

Garland often counsels other attorneys on ethics issues, using his encyclopedic knowledge of the Maryland Attorneys’ Rules of Professional Conduct. He has also been a presenter for the MSBA’s professionalism course for many years.

“His attitude is that you are a lawyer, you are responsible for doing the right thing,” said Pontone.

Throughout his career, Garland has gone the extra mile for his clients. In representing a large corporation being sued by a small startup, Garland spent almost two months taking the train up from Baltimore to Columbia University in New York City every Friday to learn about complex digital circuitry, to the point where he could intelligently cross examine the startup’s “tech genius.”

Practice shift

Garland grew up in a rowhome in South Baltimore and was the first in his family to attend high school and college. Asked why he went to law school, he replied, “because I could.” He attended Villanova Law School, where he was offered a full scholarship and was part of its first graduating class in 1956. (Garland says he would not have gone to law school or college without scholarships.)

Garland started out representing insurance companies in minor personal injury and property damage cases, ones where the companies specifically wanted the “young, hungry and cheapest” attorneys, he said.

Garland got an unusually large amount of trial experience in a short amount of time. He later moved toward larger litigation in corporate matters.

“They usually treated us attorneys as members of their team,” he said.

Garland worries about the decreasing number of trials today and the shift of the practice of law from the courtroom into the boardroom.

“Young lawyers aspiring to be trial lawyers don’t have the opportunity to try cases out of the box,” he said.

At Miles & Stockbridge, Garland played a large role in building its employment law offerings and was formerly the chairman of the practice. He pursued employment law based on its potential, believing that “you need to go where the challenging areas of the law are,” Pontone said, describing Garland’s ability to constantly reinvent himself.

Even today, his colleagues said Garland regularly stays at the office past 7 p.m.

“He makes time for the things that matter to him,” Pontone said.

“We don’t talk about heroes enough and heroes are important for us because they’re models of what we strive to be,” Reilly said. “Jim is one of my heroes.”

When asked what he does for fun, Garland had one answer: “practice law.”

“I don’t know what I’d do without it,” he said. “It’s the spark of life, really.”

To purchase a reprint of this article, contact