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Old 11-26-2012, 07:52 PM   #21
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Or maybe it is the identity thing-"Hi, my name is John, I'm a lawyer". Or they just haven't had enough time to figure out what they might like to do. It's likely a combination of things.
The early retirees on this board seem to get it pretty well. But I still wonder why more lawyers don't get it? Or maybe I don't get it, who knows? I just know you guys sound a lot happier than my colleagues who are worried about billing a minimum of 8 hours tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after. And....forever.
Martha had no trouble making the switch from "lawyer" to "early retiree". She wanted to cut back hours at her firm, but they couldn't come to her terms. So she retired on her terms.

I have to warn you-- when I started asking similar questions about military retirees, I ended up writing a book.

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My observation... it's not just lawyers... Lots of doctors do the same thing.
And university professors, and probably many self-employed people.
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Old 11-27-2012, 09:35 AM   #22
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I am guessing the profession attracts that type of person. I saw it already in my 20-something classmates in law school. Law Review, extra curriculars, moot court, Trial Team, etc. They just couldn't get enough. Some would call it passion, devotion or drive. Others might call it OCD. I think the beginning of the end of my desire to practice law was when I realized what it would take to be on Law Review. You had to spend a whole week after final exams were over in the spring and crank out a very detailed elaborate journal article within that time allotment. Long days and long nights of hard academic work, just to vie for a spot on this Law Journal, so it would look good on your resume, so you would have a better shot at landing a sweet Big Law job paying six figures right out of school, so you could work late into the evening and on Saturdays. No thanks to that!

Basically I self selected at age 21 out of the sample of future 85 year old lawyers that would one day die hunched over their desks.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:18 PM   #23
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How does he keep his license active with all the required hours of clinical practice and CEs with so few hours then ?
That's a good question. He's a professor emeritus - so perhaps his academic pursuits (yes he's still active academically, even though he's no longer full time) help with this.

I checked his license status - still active. Not sure if he's let his board certifications expire.

Kind of funny to be thinking about him in the context of this board - someone who's goals are the opposite of ER.... But he works on his own terms.

My stepmom is the same way - in her 80's and still teaching in nursing. Not because she has to - but because she loves it. (And the college administrators won't let her quit... big time shortage of nurse educators.) She enjoys it and can't imagine stopping.
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Old 11-27-2012, 01:26 PM   #24
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I'm a 63 year old lawyer who has been in private practice my whole life. We're not rich, but we have plenty of money to live a reasonably decent life and we have no debt. I'm leaving the work force on April 1, 2013.

All the lawyers I know seem amazed. "What are you going to do?" "You'll be bored". "You'll miss the intellectual challenge." Etc., etc.

Looking around my community, there are lots of lawyers who are anywhere from 1 or 2 years older than me to 20 years older than me, still working. I ask myself why? Surely, most of them have enough money to get by, but maybe not.

Lawyers who work for the government or big corporations retire, but it doesn't seem many in private practice do.

I wonder why?
This is an interesting question. My brother (he's 45) is a lawyer (he also has a Ph.D. in pharmacology) and he's making big bucks as a drug patent lawyer. He has said to me that he'll never be able to retire. I don't know if this is the case with MOST lawyers, but he feels pretty secure in his job and partly because of that, he and his wife spend pretty much everything they make (and they make a LOT). Personally I don't understand that. He also really enjoys the work he does, so he doesn't see stopping. I also don't understand that. I've never been so in love with a job that I didn't want to eventually quit doing it. He has to bill 2000 hours each year, and that means he hardly has any time to take off for vacation. He works super hard, so that's admirable on some level, but he has no interest in planning for a future where he won't be working. So, at least for him it's either the inability to save for retirement or the fact that he's driven and loves his work so much that he doesn't think about it or a combination of both. Probably most lawyers are hard-working A-type personality people who just don't see that they could have fun relaxing. I am definitely NOT like that at all. I do work hard, but I also greatly enjoy my time away from work.
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Old 11-27-2012, 08:05 PM   #25
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Ohio, wow! You have described a very dysfunctional person. What memories do you create for your spouse & kids when you live like that? I don't know a single widow or child of a deceased who wished Dad had spent more time in the office. I was that guy 20 years ago but changed. My wife & kids & eventual grand kids deserve better.
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Old 11-28-2012, 06:07 AM   #26
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This is an interesting question. My brother (he's 45) is a lawyer (he also has a Ph.D. in pharmacology) and he's making big bucks as a drug patent lawyer. He has said to me that he'll never be able to retire. I don't know if this is the case with MOST lawyers, but he feels pretty secure in his job and partly because of that, he and his wife spend pretty much everything they make (and they make a LOT). Personally I don't understand that. He also really enjoys the work he does, so he doesn't see stopping.
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Ohio, wow! You have described a very dysfunctional person.
That sounds a bit like my brother. He has 7 kids and worked as a lobbyist, quitting a year ago at age 78 only because he was going blind and couldn't really do it anymore. Aside from the fact that he should have saved a bit more (working so long is the only thing that saved him from running out of $ in old age) I don't see him as dysfunctional at all. He loved what he did and made plenty of time for family and fun. Surprisingly he is also happy in LR (late retirement), primarily because he can read to his heart's content. I got him a Nook Color and regularly troubleshoot his problems with it over the phone. With the font set large and the backlit screen he can still read comfortably.

There is no doubt in my mind that he would have continued to work until 85 or so if his sight hadn't failed. As I said, the only problem I could see are savings. If something had forced him to retire ten or fifteen years earlier he would have been in trouble. As things worked out, he is doing fine. Surprising to me (and him) he had the same positive reaction many of us ERers have to the bliss of waking up and thinking, "hey, I don't have to get up and go in to the office today, weeee."
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Old 11-28-2012, 08:29 AM   #27
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Ohio, wow! You have described a very dysfunctional person. What memories do you create for your spouse & kids when you live like that? I don't know a single widow or child of a deceased who wished Dad had spent more time in the office. I was that guy 20 years ago but changed. My wife & kids & eventual grand kids deserve better.
I'm, not sure I'd go so far as to say he's dysfunctional...both he and his wife are big spenders...unfortunately that makes both of them like MOST Americans. Those of us who post and read here at www.early-retirement.org have the minority opinion. Like I said though, I do not understand people who don't plan for the future.

As you changed your ways, I am hopeful that he will too. He has such a serious income that even if he changed his thoughts about money the last 10 years of his career (or even less), he could have a very nice retirement. His kids are showered with expensive things, and I'm sure they like that. He does, also, spend as much time with them as his work allows, and while I spend more time with my kids and wife than he does with his, I do consider him a family man.

You and I definitely seem to have the same ideas about work and family.
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Old 11-28-2012, 09:34 AM   #28
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A few random comments:

People who would be bored but for work are boring people. It seems a bit tragic that they haven't managed to develop any other interests.

The intellectual challenge of private practice is overrated. Assuming that one works in the same area of law throughout one's career (which is generally the case, at least during the past few decades as specialization has become the norm), things become essentially routine. Sure, one assumes more responsibility and authority, but at some point that plateaus too.

Lawyers do have quite a bit of freedom to structure their days, but that is largely offset by the pressure of having to bill a certain number of hours (you're only as good as your last month) and having to meet client expectations.

While I can't speak to other area of practice, litigation can be a truly grinding existence in which one's days are spent (i) trying to solve an endless series of problems on behalf of ungrateful people, and (ii) arguing with opposing counsel (civility, or lack thereof, is a growing problem, although in fairness I have to say that the great majority of lawyers are decent and reasonably friendly).

Institutional clients are becoming increasingly demanding. Not only do they expect more work / results for less money, but their lawyers are compelled to adapt to their (arbitrary) internal processes, including periodic audits and unrealistic reporting requirements.

in-house and government lawyers typically retire earlier than private practice lawyers because they have access to generous pension schemes; which is not the case at law firms, at least small ones.

67walkon, a book for you: Richard W. Moll, The Lure of the Law: why people become lawyers, and what the profession does to them (Viking, 1990). See especially Part V, "Stepping Out: a view of lawyers by non-practicing lawyers".

An article worth tracking down and reading: Andrew Cracknell, "Persona non gratis: thoroughbreds in the stables, millions in the bank - yet still you don't retire. Worried that no one will love you when you have nothing to put on a business card", Financial Times, January 7, 2006. Excerpt:

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In discussions in the office about what life would be like without work, the biggest drawbacks identified were boredom and exclusion. There was a nagging worry that if you didn't have to go to work you might feel left out if, say, you were having lunch with a former colleague and they had to abandon you at 2 pm sharp to go to a meeting. This might highlight your lack of purpose as an empty afternoon stretched out in front of you.

We'll, yes - but what's wrong with a long empty afternoon? And, anyway, haven't you the wit and imagination to fill it? A tiny portion of it - as you sit in the sun in a small park, fascinated by a magazine you've never had a chance to read before - can be taken up in delectably imagining the meeting your former colleague has gone to and remembering the look on his face as he hurried off. You usually don't want to be there.
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Old 11-28-2012, 10:22 AM   #29
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I keep waiting for the punchline...
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Old 11-28-2012, 11:27 AM   #30
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I keep waiting for the punchline...
Here's a better joke. So simple even mere laymen can get it.

Why didn't the honest attorney retire early?
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:15 AM   #31
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As someone practicing law for 34 years in private law practice, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. It is certainly my perception that most lawyers don't retire at anything close to a normal retirement age unless, well, forced to. Even then, they often continue as "of counsel" and do as much work as they can find.

I semi-retired 2 1/2 years ago and currently work about 15 hours a week. I think it is safe to say that my colleagues were amazed when I did it. They weren't negative about it...just sort of bemused. Support personnel, however, were uniformly congratulatory to me.

I think there are several factors that I find relevant:

Many lawyers sense of themselves is very bound up in being a lawyer and they really enjoy their work. Many of the older lawyers that I know (in this contest I mean those over, say, 60) absolutely love their work and have virtually no hobbies or other interests other than practicing law. They see retiring as being put out to pasture and being useless and having no purpose. These are the people who retire and soon die because their life is really over.

I think one reason you see this so much in private law practice is that the dysfunctionality of such practice for ordinary life leads to the only people who stay in private law practice being those who are willing and able to devote almost 100% of their life to practicing law. People who don't want to do that -- who want a normal family life, for example -- tend to be weeded out. Some are weeded out early and involuntarily. I still remember the associate we hired at our small firm. He had been an associate for a couple of years at a very large name firm. The first year he had been expected to bill 2000 hours or so (bear in mind that while that may not sound like a lot it really is because you can't bill for every second of the day.) He wanted to do well so he worked hard and billed something like 2200 hours. He was utterly demoralized when his "reward" for this was to be told that his new goal was ...2200 hours. He weakly mentioned wanting to spend more time with his wife and he had been hoping for 2000 hours and was told that if he wanted to succeed he had to realize that the firm would always come first, before his family.

So, he was weeded out early. Then, many are weeded out in the middle years when they start having kids or wanting to do things other than work all the time and they leave and go in house to corporations or go work for the government. And they are weeded out.

The ones who stay are the ones who are willing to literally never have a vacation. (When I first became a shareholder I thought it was cool that I didn't have a set amount of vacation time and could take off whenever I wanted to. However, that wasn't the deal it sounded like, in that I still had to bill the same number of hours during the year whether I took off 4 weeks of vacation or none. When I married my husband when I was in my late 30s I was astonished to find out that when he took vacation he didn't have to make the time up and no one got mad at him. He thought I was nuts when planning vacation to have to figure out how many hours of work I would have to do extra after the vacation to get my billable hours back up to acceptable). The ones who mostly see their kids when they are asleep and whose idea of "social life" is taking out clients to dinner or going to social events to try to find new clients.

So, by the time you get to 60 you basically have 2 types of people left practicing law in private law practice. Those who have to work in private practice because they need the money for their lifestyle and those who truly love it because they have actually prioritized their firm and their work over all else for 35 years or so.

And that is another thing. For many people in the bubble of private law practice they have a very inflated idea of how much money is needed to retire. I was talking to a colleague several years ago and he said he would retire if he hit his "number." OK. Fair enough. His number, though, was $5 million. And I think that is fairly common. Many lawyers are used to a very expensive standard of living and have no concept of living on less than at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. And, for many, $200,000 a year would be considered impossible to live on....

I grew up middle class, as did my husband. So he retired and I semi-retired with us having a net worth that allows us to live a middle class life once I retire. We are fine with living a middle class existence. But for many lawyers I work with, they would not be remotely fine with that.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:09 AM   #32
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In my experience those people who have a lot of autonomy in their jobs: lawyers, doctors, professors, business owners work longer than those of us who were regular employees with little or no control over our work lives. Make sense that people value autonomy as distinct from the other benefits of work such as compensation and social role.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:46 AM   #33
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Having talked to some of my peers over the years, I agree with what you wrote below. People are wired differently. I am happy with LBYM, even if I could afford a (much) more expensive lifestyle.

Some of my colleagues would prefer to fly to Florida for the weekend, and play golf there, whereas I am happier volunteering at free clinics during the same weekends. Or fly to Central America to do the same. I am happy with my middle class mindset (the way I grew up), not showing off my wealth.

Different strokes.

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I was talking to a colleague several years ago and he said he would retire if he hit his "number." OK. Fair enough. His number, though, was $5 million. And I think that is fairly common. Many lawyers are used to a very expensive standard of living and have no concept of living on less than at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. And, for many, $200,000 a year would be considered impossible to live on....

I grew up middle class, as did my husband. So he retired and I semi-retired with us having a net worth that allows us to live a middle class life once I retire. We are fine with living a middle class existence. But for many lawyers I work with, they would not be remotely fine with that.
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Old 11-29-2012, 06:52 AM   #34
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I semi-retired 2 1/2 years ago and currently work about 15 hours a week. I think it is safe to say that my colleagues were amazed when I did it. They weren't negative about it...just sort of bemused. Support personnel, however, were uniformly congratulatory to me.
DW did essentially the same and has now retired in all but name (she still has an official relationship with her firm and receives a yearly stipend). She chose to make the change when she was at the height of her earnings and handed off her business to partners and associates she brought into the firm. Interestingly, several younger associates said they saw her as a role model for balancing law and life. But, none of the older partners were in that camp. Several of the older equity partners who were under-performing were driven into the same special partner category that DW opted for but, unlike her, they continue to come into the office every day and probably will do so until health problems stop them.
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Old 11-29-2012, 08:26 AM   #35
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As someone practicing law for 34 years in private law practice, this is a topic near and dear to my heart. It is certainly my perception that most lawyers don't retire at anything close to a normal retirement age unless, well, forced to. Even then, they often continue as "of counsel" and do as much work as they can find.

I semi-retired 2 1/2 years ago and currently work about 15 hours a week. I think it is safe to say that my colleagues were amazed when I did it. They weren't negative about it...just sort of bemused. Support personnel, however, were uniformly congratulatory to me.

I think there are several factors that I find relevant:

Many lawyers sense of themselves is very bound up in being a lawyer and they really enjoy their work. Many of the older lawyers that I know (in this contest I mean those over, say, 60) absolutely love their work and have virtually no hobbies or other interests other than practicing law. They see retiring as being put out to pasture and being useless and having no purpose. These are the people who retire and soon die because their life is really over.

I think one reason you see this so much in private law practice is that the dysfunctionality of such practice for ordinary life leads to the only people who stay in private law practice being those who are willing and able to devote almost 100% of their life to practicing law. People who don't want to do that -- who want a normal family life, for example -- tend to be weeded out. Some are weeded out early and involuntarily. I still remember the associate we hired at our small firm. He had been an associate for a couple of years at a very large name firm. The first year he had been expected to bill 2000 hours or so (bear in mind that while that may not sound like a lot it really is because you can't bill for every second of the day.) He wanted to do well so he worked hard and billed something like 2200 hours. He was utterly demoralized when his "reward" for this was to be told that his new goal was ...2200 hours. He weakly mentioned wanting to spend more time with his wife and he had been hoping for 2000 hours and was told that if he wanted to succeed he had to realize that the firm would always come first, before his family.

So, he was weeded out early. Then, many are weeded out in the middle years when they start having kids or wanting to do things other than work all the time and they leave and go in house to corporations or go work for the government. And they are weeded out.

The ones who stay are the ones who are willing to literally never have a vacation. (When I first became a shareholder I thought it was cool that I didn't have a set amount of vacation time and could take off whenever I wanted to. However, that wasn't the deal it sounded like, in that I still had to bill the same number of hours during the year whether I took off 4 weeks of vacation or none. When I married my husband when I was in my late 30s I was astonished to find out that when he took vacation he didn't have to make the time up and no one got mad at him. He thought I was nuts when planning vacation to have to figure out how many hours of work I would have to do extra after the vacation to get my billable hours back up to acceptable). The ones who mostly see their kids when they are asleep and whose idea of "social life" is taking out clients to dinner or going to social events to try to find new clients.

So, by the time you get to 60 you basically have 2 types of people left practicing law in private law practice. Those who have to work in private practice because they need the money for their lifestyle and those who truly love it because they have actually prioritized their firm and their work over all else for 35 years or so.

And that is another thing. For many people in the bubble of private law practice they have a very inflated idea of how much money is needed to retire. I was talking to a colleague several years ago and he said he would retire if he hit his "number." OK. Fair enough. His number, though, was $5 million. And I think that is fairly common. Many lawyers are used to a very expensive standard of living and have no concept of living on less than at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year. And, for many, $200,000 a year would be considered impossible to live on....

I grew up middle class, as did my husband. So he retired and I semi-retired with us having a net worth that allows us to live a middle class life once I retire. We are fine with living a middle class existence. But for many lawyers I work with, they would not be remotely fine with that.
Knowing my lawyer brother and hearing him talk about other lawyers, I have the same impression about lawyers that you do.

Certain people are not cut out for being a lawyer who bills 2000 hours, and I would be one of them. I started out my career as a newspaper reporter for a large daily newspaper. The problem was that most events I had to cover (meetings, sporting events, etc.) happened at 7:30 at night, and this was not conducive to family life. I knew before I even had children that I did not want to have that kind of work life, so I left my daily newspaper job and went back to school to become a teacher. I have since worked as a teacher and then a technical writer. I much prefer my 8-5 workday to working between 7:30-11:00 at night (and then having to work during the day too).
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Old 11-29-2012, 01:13 PM   #36
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katsmeow, excellent points. We've managed to keep our sanity in my little firm by not having those sort of billable hour requirements. When I was a young buck, I was proud of working every Saturday, at least half a day, and for getting to work before anyone else every day. And I did pretty good at the lawyer part of it but pretty bad at the human side of it. The workload contributed to a divorce and lots of hurt over two kids. I kind of made up my mind after the divorce that my two kids were more important than any client. If I had to get in late because they missed the bus and I had drive them, I got in late. If I had to leave early to catch a game or a school event, I left early. I couldn't go to work on Saturday and leave them at home. Those 2 are grown now and doing well. My 3d one by my second and bestest and last wife is doing great and is almost out of college. As my hours went down, my personal life really, really improved.

And you're right about the money. I don't care anymore. So long as I've got a decent home and food on the table, I'm good. If God takes me next year or in 30 years, I want to spend as much of that time as possible being with my wife, my kids, my future grandchildren and my friends. I don't want to spend any of it in an office or courtroom.

120 days to go!
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Old 11-29-2012, 02:57 PM   #37
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At work you are the big dog. After retirement you are just another old man in line at Wal Mart.
All I needed to read today was contained in these two sentences.
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Old 11-29-2012, 03:46 PM   #38
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Then, many are weeded out in the middle years when they start having kids or wanting to do things other than work all the time and they leave and go in house to corporations or go work for the government. And they are weeded out.
This describes me exactly. I'm 10 years out of law school now, with two young children. I'm a partner in a great firm, but I'm just not willing to make the lifestyle sacrifices necessary to spend the rest of my career here. So, I'm trying to wrangle my way into an in-house job. I'm probably jinxing it by writing about it, actually.

Not sure what's going to happen in the near future, but I can sure as hell promise that I will not be one of these guys who is still churning out 1900 hours at age 65.

The law is great and all, but there are so many other wonderful things in the world, like kids, the outdoors, free time, etc.
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Old 11-29-2012, 04:38 PM   #39
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I'm a partner in a small firm, aged 48, I have a younger partner and an older partner.

I'm reducing my practice and trying to figure out a semi-retired, but still working program. Tired of the constant stress and having to help clients through miserable circumstances when I can't wave a magic wand and help them.

I totally disagree with the negative comments about lawyers here. Yes, we make lots of money if we are good lawyers and good businesspeople, but the vast majority of the lawyers I know are honest, conscientious (sp?) decent folks. I am in the midwest, so maybe that's the difference.

I hope to winnow my caseload down to 4 or 5 good quality cases where I can make a difference and a little money. So long as my partners don't throw me out of the office!!

Cheers to you, 67WalkOn! I think you and DW will do just fine!

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Old 11-29-2012, 06:10 PM   #40
Thinks s/he gets paid by the post
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Hong Kong
Posts: 1,575
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lazarus View Post
At work you are the big dog. After retirement you are just another old man in line at Wal Mart.
Thanks. I'm sure this will haunt me for a while after I hang up my practising certificate next year.

FWIW, I am a partner in a big law firm and I will be FIREing in mid 2013 at age 47. Sure, I have a well paying position and a good degree of control over my working life, but there are other things I want to do. The idea of still being in the office at 60 or beyond and leaving a lot of other challenges undone genuinely scares me.
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