We recently interviewed several retired attorneys who were willing to share their experiences and perspectives on life before and after retirement.
We asked the attorneys why they started thinking about retirement, and here is what they had to say:
- I knew I wanted to retire when I was still healthy and could enjoy life. I wanted to travel and enjoy life with my spouse and friends. The decision to retire did not happen overnight, but was not a difficult one for me to make. I used my logical side to make the decision. I loved my job and my colleagues but wanted to do other things too.
- I had less patience with obstructive practices by opposing attorneys – it seemed like a sign. I began to feel a sense of sameness and routine. It gave me the vague sense that I could do the work without much effort and without utilizing my best skills. My interest was waning and, at times, I felt the challenge was gone.
- It was taking too long to bring cases to trial. At the state level, attorneys would not agree to expedite trials. At the federal level, the costs and time requirements to meet the various judicial, local, and FRCP requirements were increasingly daunting and expensive for clients.
- Technological changes started making impacts in a number of practice areas, and smaller, routine cases became more automated and rote.
- A time existed when I did not think about retiring, but then one day I realized I had to retire sometime.
- My contemporaries and I are getting older. Some of them were starting to retire. Others became ill. Still others passed away. Father Time was beginning to gain a bit. Mother Nature was taking a slow toll.
In terms of preparing for retirement, here are some insights and suggestions the attorneys offered:
- Invest in your health – it is an important foundation for a good life. Take care of yourself, exercise, and hope you have good genes so that you can enjoy good health in retirement!
- I began preparations for an eventual retirement about four years beforehand. It was a slow process, but the early preparation helped me with the transition. The preparation reduced my anxiety and helped me avoid unanticipated consequences.
- Consulting with a financial planner gave me confidence in my financial future and helped me develop a long-term financial plan. Reviewing your finances really helps you know what to expect and, for me, that relieved a lot of anxiety.
- If you are in a firm and you are going to retire, talk with your partners so that everyone has time to plan and prepare both financially and emotionally. I discussed my retirement plans with my partners early in the process, so they would not be surprised. I did not want them to sign office leases or other obligations without knowing my timeline. Even though it can be difficult to approach these subjects, it preserves your relationships and saves a lot of upheaval in the firm. It also spares a lot of hard feelings, extra work, and expense. If it works, plan your retirement for the end of a lease!
- Have complete physicals taken and any procedures finished before retiring – a “total body tune up.” Complete your medical testing and procedures before you retire.
- Plan the first six months of your retirement, or create a to-do list for that time frame. I found it helpful to have a glide path for when I left work behind.
- Pick a date and then just do it. Once public, your retirement takes on unexpected momentum.
- Make a plan before you retire, so that you have something to retire to.
The attorneys spoke about approaches and resources that were helpful leading up to retirement:
- Talk with current retirees.
- Develop your interests and friendships.
- Speak with your support network for both ideas and accountability.
- Meet with a financial advisor. I learned that I could afford to retire. So, I did!
- Attend or listen to retirement-related speeches, presentations, YouTube videos, TED talks, etc. Do the same with subject areas that are of interest to you.
- Consider if the time is right. When I first considered retiring, the thought made me worried and anxious. It didn’t feel like the right timing. I am glad I listened to those warning signs. When I retired several years later, I looked forward to my next chapter of life. The right timing makes a big difference!
- Read about retirement and consult with the OAAP attorney counselors.
- Learn about and meet with consultants about Medicare and Social Security – well before age 65.
- Plan something fun for the first winter months of your retirement. It’s a good alternative to sitting around in the gloom of Oregon winter wondering what to do and worrying that retiring was a mistake!
- Retirement changed the attorneys’ lives, sometimes in unexpected ways:
- Although I travel less than I thought I would, I am spending more time with my kids and grandkids than I expected.
- I no longer live on a tight schedule because of work. I find that I need to check my calendar to remember appointments and social visits, because each day is different. On many days, I have the luxury of no time demands and unscheduled time. That makes it is easy to forget about commitments that do have specific times!
- I was not expecting to find so much joy in being free to do what I wanted to do and when I wanted to do it. I felt great knowing that I no longer had to cram everything into the weekend!
- I missed having a regular routine, so I set up several things to do each week on a regular schedule. This is still a work in progress and is not yet a satisfactory replacement for a regular work schedule.
- I do have more free time than I thought I would. This is my current challenge – being able to accept, embrace, and live with unstructured time.
- It feels like a big identity shift to identify myself as a “retired” or “semi-retired” lawyer. It is a challenge I did not anticipate.
- When I first retired, I committed to too many things. My biggest challenge was time management and learning the balance of activities and leisure time that would work best for me. I am getting better at it, now that I am in my second year of retirement, but I am still working on achieving the right level of structure and open time.
The attorneys spoke about how they currently spend their time in retirement:
- I work out several times a week at a gym.
- A couple of times each week, I try to catch up with existing friends or explore new friendships. I also read more, travel, plan future trips, take classes, catch up on home projects, and do my best to get out of the house at least two times a day.
- I volunteer at several nonprofit agencies and serve as a director on several boards. I’ve also taken on leadership roles at my synagogue.
- I balance my time between my family, projects, volunteer work, exercise, friends, and spending time alone.
- I visit with my kids and grandkids and enjoy time skiing, working out, and going to the beach. My Medicare plan comes with a free gym membership!
- Finally, the attorneys shared a few personal feelings about their retirement:
- The thing that I miss the most about work is collegiality. Fortunately, I keep in touch with many former colleagues. I enjoy our informal lunches and “reunions.”
- I really enjoy the flexibility of my new life.
- I feel very fortunate to have had a good career, good health, and the ability to retire while I was healthy enough to live it fully.
- I feel very blessed to have made it here. I can read what I want. Unscheduled days are easier to handle with some experience and practice. I no longer wear a tie. I wear more colorful socks.
Our thanks to the lawyers who shared their perspectives with us and to OAAP Assistant Director/Attorney Counselor Shari Gregory, OAAP Attorney Counselor Douglas Querin, and PLF Practice Management Advisor Lee Wachocki for their assistance with this article.
- The Next Stage: Planning NOW for the Retirement that YOU Want – Available on the PLF website, www.osbplf.org > CLE > Past. This CLE examines the financial, business, practical, and emotional aspects of retiring from the practice of law.
- Lawyers at Midlife: A Personal & Financial Retirement Planner for Lawyers, Michael P. Long, John Clyde, Pat Funk – Available through the PLF order desk, 503.639.6911.
- Preparing for a Status Change, inPractice, February 25, 2019. https://www.osbplf.org/inpractice/preparing-for-a-status-change/