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Old 08-06-2008, 11:33 AM   #21
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EagleEye, as someone in a not dissimilar position, I have gone back and forth on what advice to offer you.

On one hand, since your job is not terrible or abusive and pays well, I'd advise you to stay. 46 or 47 is really not that late to retire, if you look at the life expectancy of the average American.

However, your latest post seems to indicate that you are ready to go. You have looked at a worst case scenario (18-24 months off, and then returning to work) and concluded that it is tolerable. Also, you have some health issues that need your attention.

As for myself, I am nearing making the opposite decision ... deciding to work for a few more years in a job that is not unpleasant and pays well. I do have a shorter time frame - 2.5 years vs. your 5 or 6 years for FIRE. I considered ER-ing in 6 months, but concluded that I could accept working 2 more years for a better financial cushion. If I stick to this plan, I'll retire at 50 without second-guessing myself, as being forced to return to work later is unacceptable to me.

Best wishes! Isn't this a great forum?
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Old 08-06-2008, 11:59 AM   #22
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I'm a paralegal for a family law appellate specialist. I don't think anyone has mentioned volunteer work to try on other areas of law. The attorney I work for has been mentoring in a volunteer program for 20+ years. If your law firm allows that during business hours it might be great to start mentoring now and later, maybe when you are again ready to get back to w*rk, become a volunteer. The attorneys who mentor you would be contacts. I know an attorney who volunteered right out of law school and within a few months had a full page spread in the legal newspaper as volunteer of the month. Ten years later she was (and still is) a partner in a prominent firm. BTY, all of the mentoring is done over the phone.

You don't specify which area of law you practice but from my viewpoint the label can be meaningless anyway. My very worst legal experience and my second best were both labeled litigation. My current position was so good that it took me 15 years to burn out. But I've had many lunches with people who work in very unpleasant family law firms. I know of several that hire people right out of law school, give them a few unpleasant years; and the new attorney can move on to a better position. Maybe you've paid your dues?

Edit: If you do take a year off, I would suggest that you split it between two calendar years to get a better tax break.
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Old 08-06-2008, 02:18 PM   #23
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A sabbatical sounds like a good idea, but if I only had another 5 years and I would only be 46-47 years old when I retired, I would stick it out. Surely you can take some nice vacations to break up the grind. And who knows, maybe your investments will grow nicely over the next 3-4 years which will help speed up the process.

I just wouldn't want to take a chance in delaying my retirement if I only had 5 more years to go. Now if I thought I would need to work until 65, I might take a sabbatical. Good luck with your decision.
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Old 08-06-2008, 08:46 PM   #24
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Count me among those who think you should stick it out. When you finally do reach FIRE you will probably be glad that you did. In the meantime see about changing other things in your life to make life a little more interesting. A new hobby or girlfriend(just kidding) may be enough to make it all bearable. Taking a break of 6 to 24 months might set you back longer than you think on your path to ER.
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Old 08-06-2008, 10:14 PM   #25
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EagleEye,

Nice to see you again.

As a refugee from the legal profession, I understand your dilemma.

I graduated from law school in '92, and having worked in several law firms to pay for my education, I realized that the practice of law was not for me. Instead, I followed my dreams and started my own business in a field that I loved.

Although I'm not in charge of HR in my company, there are times when I do review job applications for certain positions, and fairly often we tend to get applications from lawyers looking for a career change.

I agree with the posters who noted that sabbaticals and leaves of absence are not a good sign. The thought is that when someone takes a break from their professional life, it's a sign of instability, and a high risk that this individual may decide to suddenly leave our employment after we've invested in his/her training.

To that I would add that when the applicant is an attorney, it brings up a unique danger that they will resort to a frivolous lawsuit if they find something -- anything -- not to their liking.

I can definitely understand wanting a major change of pace at your age. I had somewhat of a midlife crisis at 41 (last year), and made certain changes. Even being in a profession that I basically love, it loses its glamor after a certain number of years and even a great deal of money is less and less of a consolation, especially since I tend to live below my means and heavily invest for early retirement. At 41, my stress level was unbearable, combined with having 2 very young kids that required a lot of work.

So, I decided to reconnect with old friends, take time off from work on a regular basis, exercise 4 days a week, work only half days on Friday, improve my diet, and take care of my slightly high cholesterol. The results have been very dramatic in a very short time. For the first time in many years, I feel a real enjoyment of life, have easily beaten my high cholesterol, look better and younger, and laugh with true friends from my youth. Midlife crisis solved.

The part that prompted me to relate this to you was your mention of taking care of a growing health problem. That's really the red flag.

So, before taking a leave of absence or contemplate a change of career, I'd suggest taking 6 months to try some of the things that I mentioned. At a minimum, insist on a shorter work day, if only by 1 hour and head to the gym. If you're valuable to the firm, the boss will go for it. If possible, take off more time. And, most importantly, get the monkey off your back by seeing a doctor about the health issues.

If you've tried all of these things and after 6 months, it doesn't work, then consider your plan to take time off to find your way. No shame in it at any age.

Good luck with everything.
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Old 08-07-2008, 08:10 AM   #26
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Bah. This is your life. You only get one crack at it (or so most people believe). If you're financially and emotionally ready for the consequences, I say more power to you.

Sometimes it isn't necessarily the job that is at fault; it is your outlook on it. It sounds like you can take a break, so do it. Do some soul-searching. By the actuarial tables, you're probably halfway done with your life. Five to seven years out of your remaining 40-45 isn't anything to just shrug off.

And then there's this disclaimer: I can't make myself follow that advice because I don't think I'm financially nor emotionally ready for the consequences.
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Old 08-07-2008, 08:26 AM   #27
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Many excellent posts in this thread.

I am also "forcing" some balance on myself by scheduling vacation and doing some fun things on the side. This is to help make the time until ER not ALL about work, and help the transition to full ER.

For example, though I am allocated a lot of vacation due to my senior position at a financial services firm, I have taken just three days off this year. Just yesterday, I scheduled time off to ensure that every alternate weekend through the end of the year is a long weekend. Also, I've always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, so I signed up for a new rider training course to kick off two full weeks of vacation in the Fall.

As CaseInPoint suggests, take six months to force some change into your current lifestyle, and see whether it works. Best wishes.
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Old 08-07-2008, 08:45 PM   #28
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Once again, thanks to everyone for your excellent posts. It is very useful to see people arguing both sides of this. The whole debate is useful, even though I will obviously have to choose one path or the other. Kronk and Lotus, you have great online names. I wish I had thought of "Kronk" first.

OK, a few specific responses:

Case In Point:

You know, your name notwithstanding, I did not previously peg you as a lawyer. You mentioned you were running a business, and it didn't occur to me that you might be a law firm refugee. Anyway, thanks for the very informative post. I graduated only a few years after you.

May I ask if you could elaborate on one point in particular? You say that if you had a candidate send in a resume and it appeared that s/he had taken time off, that would be a "bad sign." I pretty much know that already. The question is: how big of a deal is it? So let's say -- on a scale from one to ten of career injury -- that time off to serve a prison sentence for murdering your last boss counts as a 10 (i.e., career-ending move). Time off to serve in the armed forces counts or to recover from a life-threatening illness counts as a zero (i.e., no harm to career or even a plus). Given that scale, how would you score my sabbatical idea? (To recap, this would be a 6-12 month period, and I would use it in part to do some writing (legal and non-legal) for publication and to address some health issues. Obviously, there is a big "rest and refocus" component to it as well.)

To the various posters in the "Stick it out" camp:

I hear all of you, but none of you have yet responded to my main objection to this approach. Specifically: if I "stick it out" until I have 100% of the amount needed for ER and then I just ER, then what do I really have to show for my life? My life would consist of three phases: maybe 25 years of growing up and school, followed by 20-22 years of a tolerable, occasionally interesting, but largely unsatisfying work life, and then a period of indeterminate duration dedicated to indulgent retirement.

That's not the worst life ever lived, but it also doesn't seem like a full and productive life. As long as I am relatively young-ish and working, shouldn't I at least try to figure out what would really be satisfying and do it? Maybe that's just a pipe dream. Maybe few people are ever really happy doing what they are doing. But even if there is only a 5% chance of finding it, isn't it worth 45K and a one-time hit to the resume?
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Old 08-07-2008, 09:15 PM   #29
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You could do the Gumby route and after an intense law career he moved to a more rewarding law career. You might end up making less but loving the work.

I worked in a law firm for 20 plus years. I worked my a** off and then, after accumulating significant political capital, I went part time. I was seriously burnt out. I worked part time for two years and then retired. I am now of counsel to my firm and occasionally consult for a few bucks on things I am really interested in.

If I had to do it again, I would have ditched the law firm life years ago and taken a lower pressure job, even though it would have delayed retirement, the years may have been happier.

So, if I were you I would try to get a one or two month leave of absence from your job and work on trying to find the best job you can possibly find.
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Old 08-07-2008, 09:34 PM   #30
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Martha -

Nords mentioned you below! Thanks for writing. Love the disclaimer! You really are a lawyer. :-)

If I am doing the math right, you would have been in your late 40s when you went part time and perhaps your early 50s when you retired. May I ask how you have been using/enjoying your time? Did you retire "for real" or did you try your hand at something outside the law?

A few other posters here suggested the leave of absence idea. I just really think my firm would go for it and if they did, I doubt I could get more than 1-2 months. I actually took 2 months off when I changed firms some years ago. It may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn't. It flew by. If I were able to get 2 months, abandoned all other items on my to-do list, and focused only on getting a different kind of legal job, I am not sure I could properly identify and obtain the position in 2 months. As you can probably tell, I *really* want that 6-12 months. The only thing that would really persuade me not to do it at this point is if it would be a serious career killer. If it means doing some explaining at interviews and maybe losing out on an opportunity here and there, I can live with that. But if it means being seen as some kind of weirdo that no one wants to consider, then I would probably back off on the idea.
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Old 08-08-2008, 01:41 AM   #31
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To the various posters in the "Stick it out" camp:

I hear all of you, but none of you have yet responded to my main objection to this approach. Specifically: if I "stick it out" until I have 100% of the amount needed for ER and then I just ER, then what do I really have to show for my life? My life would consist of three phases: maybe 25 years of growing up and school, followed by 20-22 years of a tolerable, occasionally interesting, but largely unsatisfying work life, and then a period of indeterminate duration dedicated to indulgent retirement.

That's not the worst life ever lived, but it also doesn't seem like a full and productive life. As long as I am relatively young-ish and working, shouldn't I at least try to figure out what would really be satisfying and do it? Maybe that's just a pipe dream. Maybe few people are ever really happy doing what they are doing. But even if there is only a 5% chance of finding it, isn't it worth 45K and a one-time hit to the resume?
What you are describing may well be cured by a better career fit. Or not. You are actually describing an existential crisis-who am I? Why am I here? What difference does my being here make?

I recommend you read any of Walker Percy's novels, maybe especially Love Among the Ruins. Also read his non-fiction work Lost in the Cosmos.

From observing others, happy and unhappy, and myself, formerly unhappy but becoming happy as life went on I have pretty much decided that for most of us the most important thing is that we do not hold back. We must commit. To love, to work, to children, to a societal or familial role, to making a good meal, to being there for your friends or family, to making love fully consciously.

Jobs or career can provide much of this, but there are also many very successful but unhappy people around.

When the Zen Master was asked by an aspirant what he should do to find fullfillment, the answer was "Rake the stones. Wash the path".

Ha
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Old 08-08-2008, 07:57 AM   #32
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To the various posters in the "Stick it out" camp:

I hear all of you, but none of you have yet responded to my main objection to this approach. Specifically: if I "stick it out" until I have 100% of the amount needed for ER and then I just ER, then what do I really have to show for my life?
Well you wouldn't have a trophy or anything but you would have enough money to do whatever you want at a very young age. That's a very nice position to be in IMHO. But if you are in need of a new career or lifestyle change, then go for it. It's your life and you should be happy. I wasn't in love with my job but I chose to stick it out. And glad I did.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:57 AM   #33
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FWIW, rather than a leave of absence which has the risk of "branding" you as possibly unstable as an employee, I would consider finding a new job but not starting it until a couple of months out.

Leave your firm when you have the alternatie job in the bag, then rather than a leave of absence, it's an extended vacation between jobs, a catch-my-breath break from the action.

I have hired many professionals and must admit -- however unenlightened it may be -- that given two comparable candidates I would prefer the one who didn't appear to have had a melt-down in their recent career history. Of course this didn't apply to specific leaves (help an elderly or disabled loved one, family emergencies, finishing up an advanced degree, financial emergencies, etc.).
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As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Old 08-08-2008, 08:58 AM   #34
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To the various posters in the "Stick it out" camp:

I hear all of you, but none of you have yet responded to my main objection to this approach. Specifically: if I "stick it out" until I have 100% of the amount needed for ER and then I just ER, then what do I really have to show for my life? My life would consist of three phases: maybe 25 years of growing up and school, followed by 20-22 years of a tolerable, occasionally interesting, but largely unsatisfying work life, and then a period of indeterminate duration dedicated to indulgent retirement.

That's not the worst life ever lived, but it also doesn't seem like a full and productive life. As long as I am relatively young-ish and working, shouldn't I at least try to figure out what would really be satisfying and do it? Maybe that's just a pipe dream. Maybe few people are ever really happy doing what they are doing. But even if there is only a 5% chance of finding it, isn't it worth 45K and a one-time hit to the resume?
My viewpoint on this may be different from yours. I spent many years in school, and suffered some deprivation to do so, in order to get the qualifications needed for the job that would be perfect for me. I found that job, and landed it, and that is what I now do for a living.

However, I have found that for me (and apparently for many others), after you get past the first five years or so of a new job, a job is a JOB. That's why they pay people to do it. Yes, I do productive things and yes, I am sometimes more influential and able to make changes than I ever dreamed, but I do not find the fulfillment or sense of accomplishment that one might expect. It just isn't there and for me, fulfillment doesn't come from a job. I learned, when far too old, that my fulfillment is something that comes from within, not from external situations.

Hope that makes some sense. Be the kind of person you hope to be, today.
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Old 08-08-2008, 09:50 AM   #35
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Martha -

Nords mentioned you below! Thanks for writing. Love the disclaimer! You really are a lawyer. :-)

If I am doing the math right, you would have been in your late 40s when you went part time and perhaps your early 50s when you retired. May I ask how you have been using/enjoying your time? Did you retire "for real" or did you try your hand at something outside the law?

A few other posters here suggested the leave of absence idea. I just really think my firm would go for it and if they did, I doubt I could get more than 1-2 months. I actually took 2 months off when I changed firms some years ago. It may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn't. It flew by. If I were able to get 2 months, abandoned all other items on my to-do list, and focused only on getting a different kind of legal job, I am not sure I could properly identify and obtain the position in 2 months. As you can probably tell, I *really* want that 6-12 months. The only thing that would really persuade me not to do it at this point is if it would be a serious career killer. If it means doing some explaining at interviews and maybe losing out on an opportunity here and there, I can live with that. But if it means being seen as some kind of weirdo that no one wants to consider, then I would probably back off on the idea.
I am, like Rich, worried about how you might look to a potential employer if you take an extended leave. His idea of finding a job while you are working but not have that job start immediately is the best. However, it may or may not be possible. You want to retire now. You don't have enough money. Spend some effort on finding a different job and try not to think so much about taking an extended leave. One or two months won't show up and you could use that time just for a vacation and look for the job when you return.


Yes, I was in my late 40s when I went part time. I am now 53 and am enjoying retirement. I am a project person and have discovered I am most happy in retirement if I have something to plan and accomplish. This summer I am working with my cousin on rehabbing our old family farmhouse. It has been tiring, disgusting at times (lots of mouse and bat do do) and great fun.
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Old 08-08-2008, 10:42 AM   #36
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Eagle eye, as another 41-year old lawyer who is not exactly satisfied with my current position, I thought I should weigh in. I have the exact questions you have. The question I have not been able to answer is whether leaving my current position and taking a more "meaningful" but lower-paid legal job will make me happier. The alternative is staying where I am and making good money but feeling very unfulfilled professionally. I don't want to leave the current position, which will allow me to retire very young, for a low-paying job that turns out to be just as aggravating and unfulfilling as my current job. Part of me thinks that it is the law that I am sick of, and that I will not be happy at any legal job. Given that, sticking it out in my current position makes the most sense. On the other hand, part of me thinks that I should take a chance and strive for the possibility of real job satisfaction. I realize this is not giving you any answers. But I do think the right question is whether you are tired of practicing law or just your current job. It may be that a change to a different field of work altogether is the real answer.
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Old 08-08-2008, 10:49 AM   #37
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To the various posters in the "Stick it out" camp:[/B]

I hear all of you, but none of you have yet responded to my main objection to this approach. Specifically: if I "stick it out" until I have 100% of the amount needed for ER and then I just ER, then what do I really have to show for my life?....

That's not the worst life ever lived, but it also doesn't seem like a full and productive life. As long as I am relatively young-ish and working, shouldn't I at least try to figure out what would really be satisfying and do it? Maybe that's just a pipe dream. Maybe few people are ever really happy doing what they are doing. But even if there is only a 5% chance of finding it, isn't it worth 45K and a one-time hit to the resume?

45K is nothing to find meaning in work. BTDT, don't regret it.

In High School I was assigned to tutor "Peggy P" in all subjects, even in classes I didn't take myself; it turned into a four-year gig. My math teacher assigned me to bring "Robert" up to speed after a long illness; teacher couldn't decide what to do about my grade which came in at A-, but she didn't believe in minuses; "If you can teach it, you must know it." I became her first A- student. All through High School and for many years I looked upon tutoring as a way to help myself learn, and hey, I enjoyed going into the private study rooms telling jokes and discussing the weekend. (I liked that job!!!) After about 25 years it hit me, that is one of the things that brought meaning to my life: what did I really do in High School? "Peggy P" graduated!

In a previous post I suggested mentoring/volunteering, but you haven't discussed it. Curiously you don't mention the classic line, "I want to spend more time with my families, hobbies, travel, etc."

I'm trying to imagine having lunch with you. You say you are functioning at less than an excellent lawyer level. Someone from another firm invited me to lunch. I knew she was less than excellent at her job because we sometimes interacted and she did pretty much the same job as mine. She was trying to decide about taking some time off and going back to banking. She gave notice the next day.

I don't know what you should do but I would like to see you posting on other threads. But I do know that if you want to continue as a lawyer, don't have lunch with me! Let us know what you decide.
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Old 08-08-2008, 04:02 PM   #38
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I am not a lawyer, so my 2 cents may only be worth a penny.

From personal experience, I recently switched careers after working in the same agency for 8 years and was close to being burnt out. So I took a paycut and started anew. Some of my knowledge/experience was applicable to the new job, but mostly no. The plus side is that I am learning a lot. I enjoy my new job; it has given me as much as job can possibly give. Like W2R said, the novelty can wear off after a few years, but if you only have 6-7 years to go, so what if you grow to dislike your new job/career in 5 years?

I don't know if you want to make your health issue public, but that could be a perfect excuse for a 6-month break, couldn't it?
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Old 08-08-2008, 06:15 PM   #39
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I am not a lawyer, so my 2 cents may only be worth a penny.

From personal experience, I recently switched careers after working in the same agency for 8 years and was close to being burnt out. So I took a paycut and started anew. Some of my knowledge/experience was applicable to the new job, but mostly no. The plus side is that I am learning a lot. I enjoy my new job; it has given me as much as job can possibly give. Like W2R said, the novelty can wear off after a few years, but if you only have 6-7 years to go, so what if you grow to dislike your new job/career in 5 years?

I don't know if you want to make your health issue public, but that could be a perfect excuse for a 6-month break, couldn't it?


GoodSense, I think your advice is worth a good deal more than a penny.

I know an atty who had no choice but to take two years off to deal with a serious health issue. My firm took up a collection through the family law associations to help him and his family. He's been back now, maybe five or six years, and is having a really difficult time making living as a lawyer. He's now a sole practitioner in a highly competitive market. Our firm throws him some work now and then. Are contacts worth more than money?
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Old 08-08-2008, 07:07 PM   #40
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"Assume any career moves you make won't go smoothly. They won't. But don't look back"
Andy Grove, CEO Intel

What good is ER in 5-7 years if you are a burned- out shell with health problems? Everyone has a different tolerance level; you appear to have reached the end of yours.

Giving up a career in law cannot be an easy decision, but I have a good friend who left a career-track postion (read:hamster wheel) position as a staff attorney to go into the Commercial Insurance business. He loves it, enjoys meeting with clients (who work normal business hours) , setting his own schedule, etc. The upside is that he is making more now than he was practicing law, and has a much better family life.

Good Luck with your difficult situation.
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