Law Practice Management

Are you ready for your second act?

March 17, 2014

A while ago, a friend of mine who had recently retired told me she was “ready for her second act.”   I’d never heard the phrase before, but I loved it.  What a wonderful metaphor for life after retirement.  So, are you ready for your second act?

If you’re thinking about retirement or transitioning to a different “act” in your practice and your life, there are a lot of things to consider.  Do you want to retire completely?  Would you like to practice part-time or in an “of counsel” capacity?   Do you want to sell your firm?  And if you do, how do you go about appraising its value?  Can you capture enough value by selling your firm to create real income for yourself? Do you have a successor? How do you prepare your partners, associates and staff for your departure?  These are important questions.  They address the business side of succession planning.  But what about the personal side?

In his book, Succession: Are you Ready?,  Marshall Goldsmith focuses on the personal side of succession planning. (The book was written for CEOs, but it contains some wonderful information for attorneys.)  In it, Goldsmith describes one of his clients who was preparing to retire: “I finally realized that my job had become my best friend,” she said.  “It’s very hard to leave your best friend.”  I know a lot of lawyers who feel exactly the same way.  They love their work.  There may be days (or clients) that the don’t like, but in many ways their work is their best friend.  And it’s hard to say good-bye to your best friend.

According to Goldsmith there are number of personal factors to consider as you begin to think about your second act.  Here are just a few – tweaked for the practice of law:

  • If you love working, it is very unlikely that your drive, ambition and energy will just stop when you retire.  If you’re thinking about transition, you may want to think about what new career might energize you.  What have you always wanted to do?
  • Understand that letting go is hard to do.  Getting ready for your second act will take some time.  Prepare well in advance, and know that at some point it will be OK to let go.
  • You may not always love your practice, but I’ll bet most of the time you love being a lawyer.  Whether it’s a second-act career, volunteer work or hobby, make sure you love it.
  • Find a way to contribute.  There is no other profession that contributes as much to society as lawyers do.  Forget the lawyer jokes.  Lawyers change peoples’ lives every day.  They change the world.  They make a difference.  Your second act will bring you much more happiness if you find a meaningful way to contribute.

If you’re ready to tackle the business side of planning  your second act, check out the Atticus Exit Strategy Workshop.  Even if you’re only beginning to think about transition, this workshop will give you the tools you need to make your second act a success.


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