You have probably noticed a reluctance among lawyers to retire, with many continuing to practice law well past retirement age. Despite society’s conception of the natural retirement age being in the mid-60s, today, many people don’t consider themselves old past that age because they are healthy, fit, and energetic.
This and several other reasons are why many even refuse to discuss their retirement. So what are these reasons, and how can you overcome them, retire, and still find a meaningful way to contribute?
1. Fearing Their Loss of Identity
For many lawyers who have reached retirement age, one of the most significant contributing factors to avoiding withdrawal is fear of losing their professional identity. Building a successful law firm takes many years, and it’s hard for them to step away from their profession and success. However, their legal identity completes them in every sphere and contributes to their standing in society.
This fear can easily be alleviated as you approach the age of retirement by taking an inventory of your personal life. This will help you find fulfilling replacements for legal work that will include intellectual stimulation, creativity, physical activities, and social life. These activities all give you a sense of purpose and usefulness that can be as fulfilling as the law.
2. Fear Feeling Irrelevant
A fear of feeling irrelevant is not unnatural among lawyers. During a legal career, law practitioners face some challenging cases. This anticipation of winning a claim for a client is both daunting and exciting, the type of thrill that is not easy to replace.
If you are scared of leaving this behind, perhaps the best way to stay relevant is to reinvent yourself. Your knowledge and experience can prove helpful in many ways within your community, whether you decide to volunteer, take on freelance work, become an activist, or even take pro bono cases on your own or through legal services.
3. Impact on the Law Firm
Often, older lawyers are scared that their retirement may impact their law firm negatively. However, the habit of arriving at work every day and the daily associations with staff members and clients are fulfilling.
As you face these worries, consider that there are probably others in the firm, like your trusted paralegal, that might also be considering retirement and putting it off while waiting for you to decide. Additionally, younger people in your firm have been watching and learning, so assume that they can successfully take on your duties. Don’t put off discussing the future with everyone at the firm.
4. Fear of Change
Change causes fear in most people, but it can only be reduced if addressed. So think about why you fear the changes retirement will bring and replace it with a bucket list of exciting experiences your obligations have denied you.
5. Easier to Stay Put
Sometimes, inertia keeps us from planning our retirement, so we remain comfortable with keeping to the same routine.
The best way to feel the pleasures retirement can offer you is to ease into it with extended breaks once in a while. You can also start working fewer days a week. Once you see how great it feels to take time to do other things, you will probably look forward to having more time to yourself.
6. Haven’t Thought About a Successor
Many lawyers find the thought of retirement daunting because they haven’t planned for someone to take over from them. However, succession planning has many benefits for your firm and its clients. Plan early by identifying the person you want to succeed you, and start the process of training them into taking over from you someday.
7. Can’t Afford to Retire
Lawyers in solo practices often neglect financial planning for retirement. This means they have to work because they cannot afford to retire. It is never too late to start planning for retirement, but the younger you are, the better.
Whatever your reasons for not wanting to retire, carefully consider your motivations. You might be surprised that you can balance retirement with something more fulfilling, whether in another field of law, outside the law, or just filling your time with leisure and other recreational activities.