The days of the magic retirement age of “X” and a gold watch are over. (See August 2013 Post.) For each it is a personal decision and for the poor planners, a necessary delayed requirement. As the very large group of post-World War II children age up, it becomes a legal issue worth revisiting. I officially “retired” at 65, but daily actively practice law and intend to do so. It is just a bit more fun doing it on your own terms, as opposed to that strong fiduciary duty to your other partners to provide full hours, manage a business, feed work to others, and be part of your professional and local communities. As I said before, no lawyer ever went to the Pearly Gates and said: “Damn, I wish I had billed some more hours.”
We are talking valuable experienced legal resources here. Firms should have every interest in using their talents productively as long as their lawyers wish to do so. However, on the other side, you do not want to be the older person the younger partners always complain being gone or not engaged. They do not take kindly to the “I earned it” approach. It is more like “what have you been doing lately” approach. So, do like my friend did — go out on top is my thought. Work out your own deal with your firm and be happy. The Earl of Elkview, a local colorful lawyer, advocates “Festive Living” with livable rather than billable hours. There are many variables to be considered. See, Jim Cotterman (Cotterman on Compensation) May 14, 2014.
There is a legal point where the retirement and aging issue transcends what is right, or what you want to do with your legal career. Do not get to the point where your train of thought leaves the station without you.
Having served on a statewide Alzheimer’s Board, I feel somewhat better attuned to the aging process issues which will statistically hit the Boomers in a big way. Absent a cure, aging issues will most definitely affect boomer lawyers and their law firms. So as your law partners’ keeper, you must watch for all the many things induced by the stressful life of a lawyer, and now add cognitive degeneration to that watch list. Before 401K plans, lawyers never retired and others did pay attention to this, but not so much in the last thirty (30) years. Now I see an early ethics opinion on this very subject.
Kansas Bar Association Legal Ethics Opinion No. 14-01 “Duty to report attorney memory lapses” tells its lawyers to refer memory lapses, cognitive deteriorations, or other potentially disabling conditions to the Kansas Lawyers Assistance Program, or other suitable service. If this problem resulted in acts or omissions constituting actual violations, then another lawyer would have the duty to report it. I see this as an early recognition that this coming impairment is a larger issue to be regarded in the legal community due to its potential volume. Well, there you have it. Have we discussed this before?
As a good friend of mine always closes: “Remember, life is too short for boring briefs.”