“The honor of having people trust you with their problem, to speak for them,” says Booker T. Evans Jr., gazing out a conference room window on the 23rd floor of the downtown Phoenix skyscraper housing Ballard Spahr’s Arizona offices, “that’s the thing that reaches inside you, and makes you know that you’re doing something that’s important. It’s still an honor that people actually hire me to go in and speak for them in a place where they can’t speak for themselves.”

Kimberly Warshawsky, a partner at Ballard Spahr who has known him for 11 years, says his soft-spoken style also is present in the courtroom. “He’s even-keeled, and very much a gentleman when it comes to litigation cases,” she says. “It’s a very nice courtroom presence. He tends to de-escalate situations with that demeanor.”

Evans, now 69 years old, got started on his legal career 27 years ago on a pro bono case. He was representing Ronnie Bartow, a 22-year-old black man who was constantly accosted by a group of rowdy young white men who physically threatened him and shouted racial slurs at him every workday on his bike ride home from his job at a Mesa hospital. One night, the taunting got physical and he was forced to defend himself from the group—resulting in Barlow fatally shooting one of the young men.

Barlow was convicted of manslaughter; Evans eventually got his sentence commuted. “Took about a year and a half,” Evans says. “Today he is a working, good, solid citizen; lives in the West Valley; has worked for a pest control company; owns a small business. Just turned out great.”

Evans says it’s the cases like Barlow’s that keep him practicing law. “The money has never been the driving force for me,” he says. “It’s the individual who calls, saying they’re getting pushed around. Suddenly a lawyer from Ballard Spahr shows up and he says, ‘This is not fair, and we’re going to do something about this.’ That’s the role I like to play. That’s what I can deliver.”

Evans also is keenly aware of the example he sets being and African-American attorney.

“It’s one of the reasons I keep working well past 65, I guess,” he says. “It’s important for young people of color to see someone like me in the legal field to understand that they can do this. I’ve often said that every time we lose one of the older African-American lawyers to death or retirement, it takes an awful lot out of the community.