The Right Time to Retire How Do You Know?, 0621 RIBJ, RIBJ, 69 RI Bar J., No. 6, Pg. 17

PositionVol. 69 6 Pg. 17

The Right Time to Retire: How Do You Know?

No. Vol. 69 No. 6 Pg. 17

Rhode Island Bar Journal

June, 2021

May, 2021

These 12 questions can help you determine your mental and physical readiness to sunset your legal career.

Ida O. Abbott, Esq. Ida Abbott Consulting

This article is brought to you by the RI Bar Association Lawyers Helping Lawyers Committee. It originally appeared in the January/February issue of Experience Magazine, published by the American Bar Association, and has been reprinted with permission from the author.

Many people ask me, “When is the right time to retire?”

But like so many questions about important decisions, this one has no simple “right” answer. I have clients starting to plan for retirement in their early 50s, and I know lawyers in their 70s and 80s who insist they’ll never retire. To find a meaningful answer, you need to reframe the question as, “When is the right time for me to retire?”

And the only person who knows the right answer to that question is you.

That doesn’t mean the answer is easy. Except for the fortunate folks who know exactly when they want to quit practice and what they want to do next, most lawyers grapple with competing demands, conflicting desires, their identity being tied to their career, fear of the unknown, risk aversion, financial uncertainty, and other factors that prevent them from retiring or even thinking about it.

Nonetheless, the answer is there. It just takes some effort to unpack, face up to your reasons for resistance, and then reframe them so you view retirement as feasible, desirable, and filled with exciting possibilities. Here’s how to begin that process.

Consider These Key Points

As you begin to think about retirement, it’s important to keep a few critical points in mind: Retire on your own terms. At some point in the future, you’ll stop practicing law. Ideally, you want to be the person who decides when that will happen. If you’re going to retire, you want to do it on your terms, whenever you feel ready to go.

It’s best to retire while you’re mentally and physically fit and before your clients, partners, or circumstances decide for you. This means being honest with yourself about how long you want to practice, what your body is telling you about your energy and interest, what your time records are showing you about your productivity and profitability, and other indications that retirement (perhaps following a phase-down period) might be a good idea. Whatever the timeline, it’s better to retire by design, not by default.

Allow enough time to prepare yourself and others.

Retirement isn’t an event; it’s a long-term process. The date of your last official work day may be on the calendar, but reaching that day takes months and years of planning. Yo u need to ensure that your clients are prepared for your...

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