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Taking Down the Shingle - 5 tips for Transitioning Out of Your Law Practice

Posted by Daniel Roberts | Jun 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

You've had a great legal career. Chances are you have accomplished a lot in your law practice. But you are getting older, the children are launched, and you are beginning to realize that time is limited. What do you do?

An upside and a downside of being a lawyer are that there is no mandatory retirement. This gives you a freedom that many of your non-lawyer contemporaries do not have; you can work as long as you want. The downside is that this permits you to do nothing, just stay the course and continue to practice law until, well....

Life is full of transitions and a natural one is to move away from what you are doing now into a new phase of life; what is commonly referred to as "retirement."  Your folks did it, your friends and associates are doing it, what about you? There are a number of options for you as an attorney: the same-old-same-old - keep practicing law the way you have been, slowing down - limiting the number or types of cases you handle, selling your practice, transitioning your practice to a younger lawyer, moving into a related profession such as mediation or legal consulting. Here is a link to the Retirement for Lawyers page of my Coaching for Lawyers website which provides more information about lawyers and retirement.

If you want to transition out of your law practice, how do you do it? Here are 5 tips that can help:

  1. Know Yourself. Lawyers are notoriously non-self-reflecting. This is the time to get back in touch with yourself. What are your values -  meaning what is truly important to you, not what should be important according to society? What were your hopes and dreams when you were younger? Hobbies, interests, passions...? The more you know yourself, the better your decision about what's next will be.
  2. Be Practical. Be objective about what will and what will not work for you. How much money and financial resources do you have? Are you limited as to where to live - grandchildren are often a limiting (but wonderful) factor. Here is a Criteria Filter form from my Wise Decisions website that can help you get real.
  3. Go to Something. Leaving your law practice is not, in itself, enough. You need to have something to pull you forward. I have heard that just golf is good for about three months. You need to move toward something; an interest, a new or neglected hobby, political action, volunteer work... So many possibilities!
  4. Take your time. Easing into what's next for you makes the transition much easier and avoids bumps along the road. I worked with an attorney recently over a period of two years to help him transition smoothly out of his firm and into a life of limited work in a small business, volunteering, plenty of time for family, and a large and consistent amount of world travel.
  5. Allow for a Course Correction. Despite the best-laid plans, things happen. Spouses die, grown children move away, health issues arise, business opportunities present themselves, it's life. So be open to revising the plan. Flexibility and a willingness to change allows you to roll with life's possibilities as well as challenges to ensure that your life-after-law-practice will be as fulfilling and meaningful as possible.

It's your law practice and it's your life outside of the law. But, the your-life part is ultimately the most important, by far.

The decisions you make for the transition to post-law life and how well you execute them can make all of the difference in the happiness and satisfaction you experience.

Have a wonderful "retirement/what's next life!

Daniel Roberts

Professional Lawyer Coach

About the Author

Daniel Roberts

 Law Background I graduated from the University of Houston, Bates College of Law in 1972 and practiced law in Houston from 1973 through 1997. I have experienced the practice of law as an associate, solo practitioner and law firm partner. Initially I was a generalist and handled whatever cases ...


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