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Why don't lawyers retire early?
Old 11-26-2012, 09:52 AM   #1
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Why don't lawyers retire early?

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?
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Old 11-26-2012, 09:59 AM   #2
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Because you can work until you're dead, and make the big bucks, while scre*ing over the little folks?

(Just a comment from one who has been working with elder law/estate lawyers, for more than a few years, on behalf of my disabled son).

You may like my answer, but you asked the question. I answered it based upon my experience, over many years...
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Old 11-26-2012, 10:12 AM   #3
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Lawyers who work for the government or big corporations retire, but it doesn't seem many in private practice do.
Because they're in control of their life and their hours, and they see no reason to change?

If you enjoy what you do then you tend to keep doing it until you find something else that you enjoy even more.

There's a certain sector of society (usually guys) who keep the office and the routine because they enjoy it, because it treats them well, and because it provides a buffer/lubricant over having to spend time at home. Frequently their spouses prefer it that way too.
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Old 11-26-2012, 10:14 AM   #4
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At work you are the big dog. After retirement you are just another old man in line at Wal Mart.
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:10 AM   #5
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My 2 cents: To persevere in our profession into one's fifties and beyond takes a certain mindset and drive. Many/most of the people who have that mindset and drive see the job as being the same as life and can't conceive of themselves in any other way.

(I'm in private litig. practice and looking to be out no later than 56-57, but two of my partners will likely never quit.)
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Old 11-26-2012, 11:27 AM   #6
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Because they're in control of their life and their hours, and they see no reason to change?

If you enjoy what you do then you tend to keep doing it until you find something else that you enjoy even more.

There's a certain sector of society (usually guys) who keep the office and the routine because they enjoy it, because it treats them well, and because it provides a buffer/lubricant over having to spend time at home. Frequently their spouses prefer it that way too.

Exactly. I am thinking of a lawyer that I knew who kept going to the office, which he shared with younger partners, until he died at age 82. He really didn't take on cases any more. He was just available to his partners to discuss their own cases in light of his own vast experience as a lawyer. To be valued for one's expertise, without actually having to do any work, doesn't sound so bad to me.

He also enjoyed having a reason to get out of the house every day, having lunch with his partners/friends, and using his office to do various real estate or business deals, almost as a hobby.

Now that he is gone, his number one partner is getting up there in years and he is still working. In his case, it is because he genuinely needs the money due to almost compulsive over-spending by both him and his wife. At any rate, the last time I saw him he looked really tired, and I felt sorry for him.
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Old 11-26-2012, 01:50 PM   #7
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My wife was an equity partner in a big firm and retired at 58. But, as you say, she was a rarity. A lot of lawyers have their identity tied up with work more so than some others. Same seems true of doctors.
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Old 11-26-2012, 02:12 PM   #8
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To be valued for one's expertise, without actually having to do any work, doesn't sound so bad to me.
Hey, we do that here on this discussion board every day!!
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Old 11-26-2012, 02:27 PM   #9
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Laywers don't retire early. They want to hang around the courts,
just in case.




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Old 11-26-2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by 67walkon View Post
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?
Because they'll be bored or miss the intellectual challenge? I think that's what they're trying to tell you.
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Old 11-26-2012, 03:22 PM   #11
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I worked in a government agency that employed lots of lawyers. Many of them retired when they could or at a typical age such as 65. Can't think of any that worked into their 70s or beyond.

I don't know why lawyers in private practice tend to work longer. I would venture to guess they have more of a commitment to a business they helped build or relationships with clients that have spanned many years.

Good for you for not going along with the herd and doing what feels right to you.
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Old 11-26-2012, 03:33 PM   #12
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But I don't get bored on weekends or on vacations! Seriously, I've heard the phrase "golden handcuffs" which is what somebody said here--people tend to make a lot of money and still manage to spend it all, so they can't quit. 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.

5 1/2 years ago, I had an asymptomatic congentitally deformed aortic valve that was being followed. It got smaller and smaller, but still no symptoms and I was (and am) very active. Then a doctor determined it had caused an aneurysm in my ascending aorta. Then a friend, one of the healthiest guys I knew, a year younger than me, died mysteriously from an undisclosed heart issue. The doc I went to said it was probably something similar to my valve/aneurysm.

That decided it for me. I got the value replaced, got the aneurysm fixed and made up my mind I was not going to die at my desk or in a courtroom. Life is too short and there are too many things to do and to enjoy. I quit working as long hours as I used to and my wife and I planned our escape from the daily work world. We got rid of all our debt, cut our expenses while still living pretty well and decided it's time. Frankly, if I worked forever and saved an extra million dollars but died without doing some of those things, I don't think my widow or kids would be all that impressed by the extra work years.

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.

Counting down the days until April 1!
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Old 11-26-2012, 03:38 PM   #13
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Just for you. My personal favorite song on the subject of retirement. Funny thing is, Mick and the gang sure didn't retire early. Well, guess I wouldn't either if I was doing a job that's pretty much a party!

Perhaps you can play this on your last day :-)

I'm Free x Rolling Stones - YouTube
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Old 11-26-2012, 03:51 PM   #14
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When DW's Dad died, DW and brother went to the "family lawyer since forever" to sort out probate (DW's Mom was incapable). That was in October 2011. By July 2011, when DW's Mom also died, nothing had moved, but we got a bill anyway. The new law firm that DW and brother hired to sort out what was now a double-probate job advised them to pay that bill, to avoid possible holdups in probate. DW has since met the "family lawyer since forever" and comments that he is basically a fossil, way over retirement age. Another reason it's not good to w*rk too long is that in quite a few cases, you're no longer as good as you were, so someone is getting ripped off, even if inadvertently.
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Old 11-26-2012, 04:32 PM   #15
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I think lawyers in law firms, especially big law firms, keep on working because many law firm business practices lack any clear succession planning. The most recent legal recession has prodded law firms and the entire legal industry to adopt better business practices, which call for better emphasis of business-client development, leadership and management skills, better productivity metrics, and succession planning. I bet in another decade or so, the outdated "club version" of law firm business practices, where partners can remain in the clubhouse for eternity, will no longer be the case. Don't you see this already with the increasing stratification of senior levels in law firms: Of Counsel, Counsel, Senior Counsel (the former equity partner being nudged to hit the road)?
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:46 PM   #16
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My observation... it's not just lawyers... Lots of doctors do the same thing.
An extended family member is 90, and still does rounds on occasion and consults on cases that are in his very specific niche specialty. He loves it. But it's entirely on his own terms... hours of his own choosing. And he knows he doesn't have to.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:50 PM   #17
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To be valued for one's expertise, without actually having to do any work, doesn't sound so bad to me.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nords View Post
Hey, we do that here on this discussion board every day!!
I knew there was a reason why I like it here!
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:55 PM   #18
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From what I have observed, it is not safe to assume that all lawyers and doctors are in a position to retire at an early age. Financially speaking.
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Old 11-26-2012, 05:57 PM   #19
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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 ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi
My observation... it's not just lawyers... Lots of doctors do the same thing.
An extended family member is 90, and still does rounds on occasion and consults on cases that are in his very specific niche specialty. He loves it. But it's entirely on his own terms... hours of his own choosing. And he knows he doesn't have to.
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Old 11-26-2012, 06:50 PM   #20
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Cause they could"nt get elected to congress.
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