Retirement For Young and Old Lawyers: Part Eight – The Final Chapter

I’m not sure I can say there is a clean line between me as an individual and me as a lawyer.

~ Anita Hill

Retiring from the legal profession will be difficult for some of us, because too often it is not only what we do, but it is who we are. You cannot retire from who you are. 

As human beings, who we socialize with is also part of who we are. Quite unsurprisingly, William Butler Yeats said it better than I could when he wrote, “Think where man’s glory begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.”

The practice of law is demanding. The evenings and weekends are legendary. For some of us, thoughts about work also invade our non-working hours. I, for one, have been retired for four years and still dream that I am closing deals or negotiating contracts. (The worst part is waking up and realizing that there is nobody to bill.)

These demands on our time frequently result in us letting old friends drift away. We may not notice it because in their place are our work colleagues with whom we share our stresses, go to lunch, or have drinks after work.

And then we retire. The old friends are long gone. Our former work colleagues are busy working and in any event our ties to them prove not to be as deep as we imagined. If we have really screwed things up, our relationship with our life partner has also suffered from neglect and may or may not be reparable.

And so we arrive at the threshold of what should be the best time of our lives. We are, hopefully, financially secure. We have, hopefully, reached a satisfactory level of personal maturity. We are, hopefully, still healthy enough to do whatever we want to do. We have, hopefully, a lengthy period of time ahead of us to finally do what we really want to do with our lives. And, hopefully, we have done the work to figure out what that is.

In the right circumstances, the beginning of retirement should be downright exciting, and with a little luck and a fair bit of preparation, it will be. As part of those preparations, be sure that you know who your friends are, and, if you do not have enough of them, get them. There is nothing wrong with being deliberate about making new friends. When my mom hit her mid-eighties and many of her friends were no longer around, we advised her to make younger friends, which she did. Now she is almost ninety-six and thankfully she has a good social life, including, most importantly, friends who can still drive.

As I close this series on retirement, I should note that you also have to be a realist. As my late father used to say, “the problem with life is that generally it does not end well.”  That being the case, why would you waste what should be the best time of your life? Live it up!

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

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