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It’s never too early to have a wind-down plan

By Lloyd C. Rosenberg

I survived. After practicing law just shy of 40 years, I decided it was time to say goodbye. Adios. Hasta la vista, baby. And that’s exactly what I did.

I walked out of my office as a partner for the last time on Dec. 14. A practice where I was hired, fresh out of Boston College Law School, as an associate in 1979, where I became a partner in 1986, where I spent my entire legal career. (Who does that in this day and age?)

In fact, my wife and I did a Full Monty. No, we didn’t remove articles of clothing. Instead, we sold the family home where we had lived for over 30 years; moved out of Plymouth, a town where I practiced, lived and loved; and relocated from Massachusetts to a much warmer, sunnier state. Wow, talk about an emotional roller coaster.

Here I sit several months later thrilled with the new adventures that await me. I thought it would be a good time to reflect and share some of my experiences with you. Specifically, positive things that I did which helped me to better survive the rigors of being an attorney. I’m hoping my suggestions will make you a happier lawyer, which will indirectly make you a better lawyer and more content person.

So, here’s my first of what will be an occasional column containing Lloyd’s Tips to Better Survive the Rigors of Practicing Law.

Project Next Phase

My wind-down plan was created more than 10 years before I actually retired. I named it “Project Next Phase.” The plan served as a guide because so many factors come into play in deciding to retire. For me it was very difficult to pick an exact end date. But it was critical to have the concept of such a date in my consciousness.  

Project Next Phase for me was basically a wind-down plan. Each year I would spend more time away from the office. In my case, it was spending more and more time in Naples, Florida, during the winter because I enjoy the beach and exercising outside. It started out modestly with two or three weeks, and toward the end it expanded to three months.

During the time I was away, I tried to minimize the amount of legal work that I did.

The wind-down is just one approach. It might not work the same for everybody. In my case, I was heavily invested in running both the personal injury practice as well as being financial managing partner for my firm. I was very committed to making sure that there would be as smooth a transition as possible when I left.

There certainly are other models that could work just as well as mine. You may choose to go from 100 percent full time to retired in one fell swoop.

Originally, I was going to retire when I turned 60. As it turned out, I retired just shy of 65. And the best part is that I’m still standing tall. Healthy, happy, and relieved not to have the daily pressures of being a lawyer.

How does one stay sane after being bombarded day after day with pressure from running a practice, trying to respond to the demands of clients, opposing counsel and judges, not to mention family responsibilities? For all of us, at times, it is a daunting task. There are many nights when a good night’s sleep is a distant fantasy. Instead, we toss and turn, thinking about an upcoming trial, or how to respond to a groundless motion filed by opposing counsel, or worrying that we may have messed up a client’s case.

Unfortunately, these challenges are only getting worse in this digital alienating world where face-to-face has been replaced by tweet-to-tweet.

So, your first challenge is to develop a Project Next Phase plan. Write it down. How many years before you ideally would like to retire or make a change? Don’t worry. You won’t be graded. It’s just a guide. Nobody will see the list. You can even write it in pencil on a piece of paper so you can erase and change it.

Assuming they still sell pencils.

Lloyd C. Rosenberg was a partner with the Plymouth law firm of Winokur, Serkey & Rosenberg, where he practiced until he retired in 2018. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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