Friday, December 8, 2006

Boomer Retirement Blues, or Is 84 Really the New 64?

Victor Today's New York Times features a story about former Weil Gotshal & Manges partner, A. Paul Victor, left, a luminary of the antitrust litigation bar, who hit the mandatory retirement age, wanted to keep working, and ended up down the street at Dewey Ballantine.  The story highlights the more general issue of mandatory retirement ages, largely falling away in the face of the aging baby boomer population, but still in place at many law firms.

At 68, Victor is not a boomer.  I am.  But his situation sends chills down my spine.  I can't imagine ever "retiring," whatever that means.  I can imagine regenerating, but I've done that several times now.  But "retiring" sounds like living death. 

My hope is for a wave of old fart re-invention.  What is the old saw?  "Learn, then earn, then return."  One of my best friends in Indianapolis took early retirement from Eli Lilly, then went back to school, got his Master's in Social Work, and spends part of his time counseling troubled teens in inner city schools.  One of my former partners (he was one of the "old guys" in his forties when I started in the law firm) does alternative dispute resolution, and teaches it as an adjunct professor.

UPDATE:  And I see, coincidentally, that Carolyn Elefant over at has a post this morning regarding small firm and solo practitioner retirement!

[Jeff Lipshaw]

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Thanks for the update.

I agree that this story is kind of sad. But what I don't understand is why more lawyers don't welcome forced retirement as an opportunity to start their own firm, to join Lawyers Without Borders, to go back to school, to start a business and learn another profession or to teach? I certainly plan on doing all those things and more. Unless you're on the Supreme Court (and even there, Sandra Day OConnor knew when to call it a day), why keep working in the same place, doing the same thing? You can't possibly be as efficient or sharp - and I think that firms are recognizing that, which is why they're starting to send the older lawyers on their way. Of course, if these lawyers had started their own firms to begin with, they wouldn't have this problem. One of the name partners at the firm where I worked is still going strong at 70 - but he's the boss, so he can do as he wants.

Posted by: Carolyn Elefant | Dec 8, 2006 5:02:15 AM

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