For Prime Times
AT?AGE 71, new lawyer Sam Kasley of Wheeling is optimistic about his prospects in the legal profession.
His wife, Doris, remarked that she had a relative who practiced law until he was 99. In response, Kasley quipped, “So I have a good possible career in front of me.”
Actually, law will be a second career for Kasley, who retired after a distinguished career in chemical engineering and management. After retirement, a lifelong interest in the law inspired him to enroll in law school.
Kasley completed his studies at West Virginia University College of Law in December 2008 and received a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree at WVU’s commencement in May. It took him four and one-half years to complete law school - with a year and a half off while he battled cancer. During his second year in law school, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and spent eight months in the hospital to undergo chemotherapy.
“I’ve always really been interested in the law,” Kasley said regarding his motivation. “The rule of law is really basic to our life. I always wanted to know what lawyers know that I didn’t know.”
Kasley and his wife had an apartment in Morgantown during his law school years. As for the experience, he commented, “I enjoyed it all. It was lots of work, lots and lots of reading. The first year was confusing.”
The retiree was older than most of the professors, but not all of them. The “new” student’s age and experience didn’t seem to faze his law professors. “I don’t think anyone intimidates them,” Kasley said, adding, “Some of my comments they appreciated and some they didn’t.”
Kasley’s fellow students accepted him easily. “It was great. They pretty much treated me as another student, in the good sense,” he said.
He found that a number of WVU law students were in their 50s and 40s. Even at his age, Kasley wasn’t setting a precedent. “The year before me, a guy in his 70s graduated. So, it’s not unusual for us septuagenarians to graduate from law school,” he quipped.
The Kasleys’ daughter, Susan Kasley Sniegowski, is an attorney in private practice in Michigan and previously served four years as the elected prosecutor of Mason County, Mich.
They also have two sons living in Michigan and five grandchildren. Their older son, Samuel John Kasley III, is an estimator for a construction company and their second son, David Mark Kasley, is a civil engineer.
Regarding his children’s reaction to his pursuit of a second career in law, he said, “They thought it was cool, particularly my daughter. She really supported me. She helped me out with a lot of questions.”
His wife, the former Doris Walters of Weirton, was supportive, literally and figuratively, of his decision. “My wife was very supportive,” he said. When he attended graduate school at Clemson University in the mid-1960s, “she (his wife) supported us,” he said. During his law school years, he said, “She was working to support me again. She was working part-time. She’s a consultant.”
Regarding his legal ambitions, Kasley said, “I really want to go into criminal law.” He prefers defense work, but is willing to handle prosecution. “Public interest law also interests me,” he said.
While some people might think that engineers should practice patent law, Kasley said, “I took several courses in patent law, but it really didn’t turn me on.”
Kasley served as a summer legal intern in Weirton in 2008 and in Lewisburg in 2007. Since graduating, he has had an interview but has not been offered a job. He doesn’t plan to establish a solo practice. “If I get a job, I’ll practice. If I don’t, I won’t,” he said.
In his previous career, Kasley worked for Dow Chemical Co. at plants in Michigan from 1966 to 1990. He served as plant manager for Von Roll America’s hazardous waste incinerator in East Liverpool from 1990-92. He was a vice president at Ecova Corp. in Golden, Colo., from 1992-95, then served as a vice president and corporate manager for various facilities of Raytheon Co. between 1995 and 2000. He ended his management career at Washington Group in Pine Bluff, Ark., in 2003.
Kasley, who holds two patents on polymerization processes, was chosen as a member of WVU’s Chemical Engineering Academy in 1996.
Born and reared in Wheeling, he graduated from Triadelphia High School and received a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering at WVU at 1961. He earned a Master of Science degree and a doctorate in chemical engineering from Clemson.
AFTER?EARNING his law degree earlier this year, Sam Kasley, 71, of Wheeling is preparing to begin a second career. He decided to attend West Virginia University’s College of Law after finishing up a distinguished career in chemical engineering and management.