Retirement For Young and Old Lawyers: Part Two

In Part One of my series on retirement, I defined retirement as being “when you are doing exactly what you want to be doing,”   and I wrote about needing to figure out what exactly what that is. In order to do that, you need to know yourself. For some of us that is easy. For others, not so much.

Perhaps you are like my late friend Lauren who was still practicing law at 86 years old.  He told me that: “if I stop working, I will cease to be relevant.” Lauren collapsed at the office at age 87 and died shortly after. I am told that while the paramedics were strapping him to the stretcher, he was giving instructions on his files to his staff. By my definition, Lauren was already retired although he was still working, because he was doing exactly what he wanted to do. I know that Lauren would have said that he had a great retirement. He certainly seemed to me to be having a grand old time.

If that is you, great. It certainly is not me.

I know a woman who earned a degree in fine arts before attending law school, and then for some inexplicable reason chose to become a lawyer. After a long legal career, she took up painting and is quite good at it. She recently had a showing of her work in a gallery in Toronto.

Again, not me.

And then there are all of the ‘real men’ who live near me in the country and fix things, paint things,  build things, chop down trees, and do other manly stuff. Still not me. My toolbox has only three tools: a phone, cheque book, and pen.

When the Covid lockdown started just a few months after I retired, I planned to accomplish a whole bunch of things that I never had time to get to when I was practicing law. Two years later I had done none of them. It turns out that the reason that I had never done that stuff was not the mountains of billable hours that I had generated over forty years. No, the answer was simpler than that. I never did those things because I never wanted to do them. It took a pandemic for me to understand that.

Another one of my friends spends her retirement being an unpaid babysitter for her grandchildren. She is a wonderful person and is loving her retirement. That is her. If it were me in that situation, I would just shoot myself.

So, when you are thinking about retirement, start by taking the time to figure out who you really are and what you really want to do.  If you are anything like me, you have been too busy working to really think about that. You picture yourself as being a lawyer and don’t know who you are beyond that.  And that is why retirement scares the hell out of you.

More brilliant reflections to come next time.

This article was originally published by Law360 Canada, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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