The ABA estimates there are 400,000 lawyers in the U.S. who are 62 years of age or older. Many of those lawyers will die with their boots on, but others will choose a different exit strategy: they will plan for their eventual transition out of the active practice of law.
There are many things to consider as one begins the process of retiring or transitioning from the active, day-to-day practice of law. Personal financial planning and succession planning for your law firm are essential to a successful transition. But so is readying yourself for life, and perhaps work, after decades spent in a law practice. It is this piece that I want to focus on.
Many of us would prefer a “soft” retirement, continuing some sort of work after leaving the active practice of law. In a Merrill Lynch retirement study of those 45 years of age or older, 7 out of 10 respondents would include some work in their “retirement”. 51% of those respondents saw retirement as career reinvention.
Assuming you want to include some work in your retirement, what steps can you take now to get ready for the next phase of your life as a lawyer? How will you reinvent yourself?
Start planning now.
Most experts agree you should start planning your transition by age 60, if possible. If you are older than 60, don’t despair; just get started now. For most of us, there’s a lot to do before we are ready to leave the practice. A year or two may not be enough time to do it right. While preparation must start long before you actually intend to retire, continual assessment of your satisfaction level with work may help you know when the time is right to actually retire.
Retiring is refocusing your priorities.
What are you passionate about? What is your avocation? School yourself on the business aspects of your passion or avocation. By doing so, you may be able to turn your hobby or your passion into for-pay employment.
Play to your strengths.
Do you know where your strengths lie? If not, here are a few self-assessment tools that will help you assess your aptitudes, interests or personal strengths, with the goal of developing satisfying and productive work and life choices.
Attend a retirement workshop to gain valuable information and create a sense of optimism and adventure about the next phase of your life. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of North Carolina Asheville conducts retirement workshops that might be of interest to you. http://olliasheville.com/retirement-workshops.
Give back to your profession.
There are many ways to give back to the profession that has given you so much satisfaction over the years. Here are some examples, but I am sure you can come up with others.
Mentor a new lawyer or law student.
Coach a high school or college mock-trial team.
Teach a CLE course on all the things you learned along the way to a successful transition so those coming behind you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Get involved in the NCBA or the NCAJ or the NCADA or any number of other local, state and national legal organizations that are sorely in need of volunteers.
Write articles for any one of the myriad of legal publications whose readers would benefit from your wisdom and expertise gained over the decades of your practice.
Lend your expertise to a non-profit or startup organization.
Volunteer as a child advocate or guardian ad litem in your county.
The list of ways to give back to your profession and your community is limited only by your imagination and creativity.
Pursue another degree.
If your desire is to pursue another degree in your retirement, consider funding a 529 tax-advantaged plan. Taxes aren’t paid on withdrawal so long as the funds go to qualified expenses incurred at higher educational institutions that qualify for federal student aid. More information about 529s is available at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s 529 website: http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/intro529.htm
Die with your boots on or plan your exit strategy. Which route will you choose?
Join us for a succession planning program September 24 at The Grandover Resort in Greensboro. Look for online registration at www.lawyersmutualnc.com in July.
Mark Scruggs is a claims attorney with Lawyers Mutual concentrating in litigation, workers compensation and family law matters. You can reach Mark at 800.662.8843 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Mark Scruggs is senior claims counsel with Lawyers Mutual specializing in litigation, workers compensation and family law matters. You can reach Mark at 800.662.8843 or email@example.com.