By David Brand
When Paul Kerson graduated from college in 1972, he faced a choice. The former college newspaper editor could pursue journalism at a time when dozens of papers were closing shop or he could study law and establish himself in Queens, his home borough.
The Queens County Bar Association enabled him to do both.
“I always had the bug,” Kerson told the Queens Daily Eagle. “I became a lawyer, opened my own office and I saw that the Queens Bar had a paper that looked like my paper from college.”
Since 1979, Kerson has written for and edited the Queens Bar Bulletin — in addition to his duties as an attorney and business owner.
Over the past four decades, he has written hundreds of entertaining articles and compelling editorials for the Bulletin, including a popular series examining court proceedings around the world.
With the help of his wife, an Asian Studies professor at Queens College, Kerson even managed to observe court in Hong Kong, where lawyers and judges wore wigs and oral arguments lasted hours. That remarkable busman’s holiday illustrated the influence of British common law and legal structures in various parts of the world, he said.
Kerson has relished editing the Bulletin because of the important role bar associations play in society.
“As far as I’m concerned, the bar association is the most important organization in society because this is where the standards for justice are made,” Kerson said. “All the judges and lawyers are members and they uphold a high standard of integrity and knowledge.”
“Without that, the world would disintegrate,” he continued. “The bar association is the organization that strives to promote high standards throughout society.”
Kerson specifically highlighted the work of Mark Weliky and the Queens Volunteer Law Project as examples of the association’s values.
“Mark is the physical embodiment of the Bar Association’s commitment to serving the poor,” he said. “The people active in the Bar Association are wonderful people to be associated with. They reflect Queens County, the most diverse county in the country.”
Kerson has called Queens home since the 1950s when his family moved from Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town to Flushing. Kerson was 12 at the time and said he savored his new borough’s “wide open spaces” where he and his friends could roam and play.
Kerson later attended Bayside High School. He said he returned to the area as an adult because he figured he could establish himself by representing high school classmates and neighbors.
“It is an unusual path because there are so many other opportunities,” Kerson said. “You have to want to run your own business and that is definitely in my personality.”
Kerson handles civil and criminal litigation as well as matrimonial and consumer cases. His work takes him to courtrooms countywide.
Like his parents before, Kerson raised a successful family in Queens. His son recently earned an MBA from Cornell University and his daughter completed a Masters of Public Administration at New York University. She now works at a prominent land use think tank in Washington, D.C.
After more than four decades as an attorney and a scribe, Kerson feels at ease in front of both a judge and a blank page.
But as he approaches retirement, he plans to focus even more attention on his writing.
“You’re supposed to keep files for seven years, but I have all my files from the last forty years in a storage locker,” Kerson said. “They’ll make for some great stories.”