Retiring from Lawyering

Ten years ago I was contemplating early retirement from the practice of law. I systematically tried to analyze the pros and cons of such a decision and summarized these thoughts in an essay that a friend used in a seminar for other lawyers.[1] I discussed the issues with friends at college and law school reunions.

I was inclined to continue my legal career because it was the more financially secure option, because I enjoyed (for the most part) the challenges presented to a lawyer that were discussed in a prior post and because it was difficult to give up the status and sense of identity of being a lawyer.[2]

On the other hand, the previously discussed negative aspects of practicing law said, “retire.” So too did the increasing stresses of the lawyer’s life.[3]

This thinking and these discussions lead to my decision to retire 10 years ago. Most important for me were two points. First was the realization that the longer you worked, the shorter would be your life after full-time working along with the greater risk that you would not be in as good as health later. Second was the question: what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Continue focusing as a lawyer on trying to help others with their problems? Or focus on your own life? Clearly I wanted to focus on my own life while I still had good health.

My decision to retire was confirmed at a worship service at Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago on North Michigan Avenue immediately after my law school reunion. The topic of the sermon “Called” by Rev. John Buchanan was vocation. The Biblical texts were Jeremiah 1:4-10 [4]and Mark 1:16-20.[5] Throughout our lives, Rev. Buchanan said, we should strive to discern what God is calling us to do with our lives, and then we need to respond to that call.

Here are the personal retirement goals I set for myself 10 years ago:

  • Be a good grandfather to a grandson in Minnesota and a grand-daughter (and another grandchild on the way) in Ecuador.
  • Be a good father to two adult sons and a good husband.
  • Learn Spanish.
  • Teach law in Ecuador in the English language and spend more time in that country.
  • Do more international travel.
  • Continue to do human rights legal work in some way.
  • Conclude my research about Joseph Welch and Edward Burling and two of my ancestors and write articles about them, as was mentioned in a prior post.[6]
  • Write a personal journal and memoirs.
  • Be more disciplined in physical exercise.
  • Develop appropriate financial planning and management for retirement.

In making this decision, I recognized that I was very fortunate to be in a position where I could afford to retire. I did not have to continue working in order to be able to put food on the table and have a roof over our heads.


[1] Krohnke, Who, me, retire? A Recently Retired Lawyer’s Reflections on Retirement (June 2001), http://www.acrel.org/Documents/Seminars/Whome.htm. I hope this essay is helpful for lawyers and others who are contemplating retirement.

[2]  Post: Ruminations on Lawyering (4/20/11).

[3]  Id.

[6]  Post: Adventures of an History Detective (4/5/11).