Lawyers At Sunset

I read an article in the Texas Lawyer yesterday:

The Graying Tsunami: As Baby Boom Lawyers Reach 65, More Choose to Work Into the Sunset

“In the past 10 years, the state’s over-65 lawyer population has grown from 8 to 15 percent. In contrast, in the 10 years before this boom, the over-65 lawyer population grew from 7 to 8 percent.”

“People drawn to the practice of law tend to be overachievers who like to be in control and have always been driven to succeed . . . . They’re not attracted to the prospect of getting a gold watch and then spending the days playing golf or tennis . . . .”

How sad is that? These lawyers have been practicing law for forty years so presumably they have plenty of cash. And yet they can’t walk away. I expect it’s because they don’t know what to do with themselves if not achieving some outwardly meaningful goal.

Case in point. I spent some time trapped in a car with the partner for whom I work a couple of weeks ago. Somehow we landed on the issue of retirement. He confessed, at 61, he doesn’t have much desire to retire. What would he do to fill the time? I said, “Are you kidding me? I can think of a dozen things I enjoy doing other than working. I would have no trouble at all filling the days.” He seemed a bit despondent for the remainder of the drive. (Maybe that’s because he realized I’d be retiring before him, and he’d have to find another junior lawyer to make money off of.)

I think a lot of lawyers end up in law school due to this same mindset. They want, need, to achieve big things. They need to always be chasing some goal. Goal accomplished? Now what? On to the next. And the next. And on and on it goes. What they don’t understand is that the sort of riches that fill the empty spaces aren’t gotten this way.

For most of my life I’ve been an overachiever. Driven to do more. Be more. Have more. This feeling settled in early. I went to a shrink for the first time when I was fifteen. I told him I felt I hadn’t accomplished much in my life. I thought I should be doing more. When he pressed me about what more I thought I should be doing (I was, after all, fifteen and in high school), I admitted I didn’t know. I may have quoted Tom Petty:

She couldn’t help thinkin’ that there was a little more to life

Somewhere else

He sent me back to my mother in the waiting room with a couple of prescriptions for antidepressants. That was in 1978 before antidepressants were in vogue. It seems my ennui made an impression.

I’d spend the next thirty-five years trying to get somewhere else.

Now, finally, I realize all I truly want is to just be.

Here are a few photographs of how I intend to spend my retirement years.

Watching the sun rise over a cup of coffee

Watching the sun rise over a cup of coffee (granted, it’s rising behind me)

Feeding peanuts to this chipmunk

Feeding peanuts to this chipmunk

Watching the sunset

Watching the sun set

Over

Over

And over

And over

Sunset

Again

About Unconfirmed Bachelorette

Unconfirmed Bachelorette, a/k/a Ella, is a 50-something-year-old lawyer who wishes fervently she could retire from the practice of law and write full time. Never-married-childfree Ella resides in Austin, Texas with her three fluffy black rescue cats.
This entry was posted in Antidepressants, BigLaw, Canada, Depression, Early Retirement, Lake Superior, Ontario, Photography, Practice of Law, Retirement and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Lawyers At Sunset

  1. Those photos reflect excellent goals. The good thing for you is that women are far less prone to drop dead after retirement, dying of boredom. The good thing for me is that I responded like a woman in the respect, as will you.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Felipe. I just don’t get the boredom thing. There is so much to do! Somehow, I’ve managed to cultivate many interests, despite being buried in this profession. I’m very glad you were able to tap into your feminine side, and avoid an early death. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Wow, this is true of the medical field as well, which is my line of work.

    It’s funny that you wrote this today, because I was JUST telling my family yesterday that I’d recently had an epiphany. I said that I was sick and tired of trying to find my PERFECT job or career and agonizing over my professional life. For the past 5 years I’ve focused primarily on climbing the career ladder in the hospital and have literally relied on this for happiness. No wonder I was so miserable. I didn’t even allow myself to have hobbies for a while. Stupid.

    You’re absolutely right about the constant need to “achieve”. I’m slowly learning how to drop this destructive habit before it eventually kills me :).

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s taken me a long time, but I honestly think achievement (professional achievement in particular) is overrated. It’s all a big lie, perpetuated by “the man,” to get us to churn out more work and make more money for them. Law firms are a giant pyramid scheme. And it’s mostly old white men at the top of the pyramid. And here we are, somewhere in the pyramid beneath them, toiling away for our gold stars. Screw that. I want real stars. And time to enjoy them. If my current self could give my twenty-something self one piece of advice, it would be do not get into debt, max out your 401k, do not cash it in to go to law school, and start investing in index funds now. Also, don’t get involved in a profession that doesn’t honor work/life boundaries and drives you to drink.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. at 73 1/2 years old ,my brother still works 7 days a week & i think teaches a class at emory in his spare time & homeless shelter

    Liked by 1 person

    • franhunne4u says:

      If he likes doing it and does not put himself under pressure, that is perfect. If it’s ONE class it does not sound like stress and will keep his brain going. Nothing wrong with that. But if he teaches 5 classes a day, bored, hostile youngsters who are there because they are forced to, that will do nothing for his wellbeing.
      Some people need an outer force to get up every morning (I know, I would spend a lot of days in bed, if I did not have to work) and go out and about.

      Liked by 3 people

    • My dad worked until the end. Even when the Alzheimer’s got bad, he went to the office most days. But I do believe that was different because it was his own business and he enjoyed it, and because he spent long weekends at the beach house and several months during the summer on Lake Superior (watching the same sunsets depicted in the photos). It was a great semi-retirement plan. Doing a job you don’t enjoy is another thing entirely.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. gertmcqueen says:

    beautiful pictures! and great insights!
    I retired at 60 after 37 years as a dental assistant. Eight years later I am so busy with enjoying life, doing things I never was able to do…like look at the clouds!
    A person MUST wake up each day with a ‘purpose’…define it to your self…go for that walk, pick flowers, read book, visit sick or dying, learn some new…look in local paper for what’s out there…
    When illness appears…deal with it, don’t use it as a method to slow down and die. I see it all around me what happens when someone ‘gives up’.
    Retirement is NOT a waste land…it’s freedom to just BE YOU.

    Liked by 1 person

    • So glad you stopped by, Gert. Yes, that’s exactly what I’m getting at. There are so many things to do in this world that give us purpose. If you are buried in a career with no outside interests, you have no vision of a life outside. I don’t think the partner I work for enjoys what he does any more. I think he’s terribly bored with the practice of law. He spends a lot of time in his office doing genealogy. Going to the office is a way for him to escape being at home with his wife.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a sweet li’l plan : )

    Liked by 2 people

  6. rivieradinah says:

    I think it’s really great that you are envisioning your life beyond lawyering. I know so many who, as you correctly said, just don’t know what else to do with themselves. And how sad is that! There is so much more to see beyond that brief on the screen. 🙂 I’m excited for you because…everything begins with a vision. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love your retirement plan. Go for it!

    Like

  8. Hello! Found you via Alcatt. Your post is thought provoking and produces many reactions within me. I’ve never had a ‘career’ career, but always worked: teaching, tutoring, being a medical editor, an office manager, and most importantly, a writer. But writing is never considered a ‘career,’ because most of us don’t make money writing. But it’s a passion, so I will never retire from writing. I have recently relocated from the SF Bay area to the Boston area, so I needed to leave my job there (which I loved, truth be told) and work for myself here. Some tell me I’ve ‘retired,’ and I bristle at that thought. I still teach, tutor, edit for pay, and I write every day. But I suppose that’s not considered a ‘career.’ So, yes, it’s important for me (and for most of us) to feel like we’re driven to ‘do more, be more, be fulfilled.’ Doing what we love – whether that’s watching a sunset, walking a beach, writing a novel, drafting up a brief, or saving a life in surgery – that’s all that counts.

    Like

    • You make a very important distinction: continuing to “work” at something you love versus continuing to work because you don’t know how to not work, cannot envision a life unchained. One of the things I plan to spend (much) more time doing when I retire from law is writing. Like you, it’s something I enjoy. Something I feel driven to do. The law is not my calling. It is not in any way fulfilling. In fact, it is just the opposite. It kills creativity and sucks the marrow from my bones. Whether I will make an income writing remains to be seen. But I have always wanted it to be my “career” (and I think it is a “career,” regardless of how lucrative if it is, or isn’t). Retiring from the daily grind will free me up to call myself a writer, to be a writer, instead of a lawyer.

      I also think there are many flavors of “retirement” and that it does not mean being idle. (Although the photographs I posted certainly suggest that.) The heart of “retirement” for me means no longer working for “the man” and having the freedom and time to write. Here’s a great post from Mr. Money Mustache on the topic of “retirement”: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/13/mr-money-mustache-vs-the-internet-retirement-police/

      Liked by 1 person

  9. anitaozolins says:

    I love your catch phrase “Proudly living alone with cats” too funny!!
    I love the way you have your tag words presented like you do. How did you do that??
    I am newish to blogging and loving the experience so far, check me out at http://www.anitaozo.com
    🙂

    Like

  10. JohnRH says:

    Great photos. I love sunsets. (And sunrises.)

    Like

  11. Nigel says:

    Dear UB, (if I may be so forward as to refer to you by abbreviation),

    I thoroughly enjoy your style and tone of writing, and empathize with your view on work and life.

    By way of background, I am a 50s odd ((or is that odd 50s) long term naval career officer, who has frequently been struck down by ennui and the thought that there must be more to life than chasing the brass ring or the Admiralship. I stumbled upon your blog whilst googling ‘I hate being a lawyer’ in an attempt to remind myself that my dream of becoming a lawyer was illusionary and based on greed and an vanity. Like you I just wish to be, and give up the illusion of having more, and achieving the brass ring.

    At the end of the day, good food, good company, good wine (for some) is all one needs. The Epicureans and Stoics were right. Instead we are all brainwashed to ‘be somebody’ achieve, but, consume, die…

    Anyway, this is a very long winded antipodean way of saying ‘thank you’ for providing food for thought and residing pleasure and achieving that greatest of all writing achievements, making people realise that we are not alone in our life views…

    ‘Et in Arcadia ego’

    Thank you

    Like

    • I cannot tell you how pleased I am, Nigel, to have popped up on an I-hate-being-a-lawyer Google query. Becoming a lawyer for me was based on greed, vanity, and the illusion that it is a career imbued with meaning and fulfillment. Ironically, it has had the opposite effect. Thank you so much for your kind words. Such resonance with my post is true praise indeed.

      UB Ella

      PS–I also thank you for prompting me to google ‘Et in Arcadia ego.’ There does not appear to be consensus as to meaning, so I am left with guessing at yours. I must admit I find this quite intriguing.

      Like

  12. Nigel says:

    Dear UB Ella, for me the definition I prefer to follow, with regards to ‘Et in Arcadia Ego’, is drawn from http://www.parnasse.com/etpnt.htm but also Evelyn Waugh’s novel, Brideshead Revisited. For me it is the dream of living an Arcadian type life ie living in a utopian garden paradise where serene folk drink, dance and lounge around in an endless summer, whilst not deluding myself that one day that will end, as it does for us all. Not really a sybaritic lifestyle but more envying life’s simple pleasures whilst they come, and not pursuing modern society’ more feckless money driven life.

    Thanks for your reply and a fascinating blog.

    Regards

    Like

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