When last we met, I had concluded with near certainty that my position with BigLaw was reaching the end. I’ve been wanting to leave for years. In fact, when I returned from Belize, a trip with which I rewarded myself after finishing the bar exam twenty-four years ago, I was fairly certain I was embarking on a mismatch career. It turns out, newly-licensed me was correct.
But then there were the student loans to pay, not to mention all the time I’d invested in law school. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the actual practice of law would be more interesting than the work I’d been doing during my clerkships. Maybe as I got deeper into the practice, I’d find it was indeed my calling. I appeared to have a talent for it, and over the years, would learn I am indeed quite good at it. I would also learn you can be good at something that is tedious, boring, contentious, and often, more stressful than the paycheck is worth. Not to mention, it was, for long stretches, not conducive toward having a life outside of work.
Since I had no idea what I wanted in my next life, I stayed put. Also, I enjoyed the security of a steady paycheck. And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find the prestige (deserved, or not) alluring. So here I am, nearly twenty-five years later, still at it.
But not for long. In 291 days, I’ll be done with the practice of law.
Two days ago (on Tuesday), the guy second from the top of the 1000-plus lawyer pyramid, called my boss and informed him they would not be extending his contract, which is set to expire at the end of the year. Mister second-in-command also told my boss that my tenure with the firm would conclude at year-end. This information was verbally passed on to me, but I’ve received nothing in writing: which is why I have termed the word of my exit “unofficially official.” It’s a law firm. I’m a lawyer. Until I get it in writing, it’s not official. My contract says as much. This is important, because under my contract, the firm has to give me ninety days written notice. Once they give written notice, they have to pay me for ninety more days, whether they throw me out the door, or not. Since it is a law firm, I expect they’re at the top of their game when it comes to things like abiding by contract terms. Assuming I’m correct, I’ll likely receive written notice in the coming days that my talents no longer are welcome beyond December 31, 2019, thus fulfilling the ninety-day notice requirement. I would be quite tickled if BigLaw management screwed up, and had to pay me an additional ninety days of salary beyond the end of the year.
Irrespective of the lack of officiality of notice, after December 31, 2019, I’ll no longer be a practicing lawyer. I’m thrilled with that prospect. Friends and colleagues have inquired whether I’ve contacted a head hunter, whether my resume is up to date, whether I have any leads for my next law job. These are the same people I have been telling for years I want out. And yet, they are nudging me toward staying in. I find this odd. I’ve made no secret of the fact I am ready to call it quits for good. But yet, these people are finding it difficult to fathom that I’d actually walk away from the practice (and the money, and the prestige) at age fifty-six.
Receiving the unofficial word that we are out at the end of the year was a relief. I had been leaning toward sticking it out for another year to give myself a bit more money in my retirement account. I’m nervous about whether I have enough, despite the fact I’ve run all the scenarios over and over in numerous calculators, and they all tell me I’ll make it through retirement without running out of money. The first few years will be tricky. I’ll have to learn how best to make investment withdrawals for living expenses, how to calculate MAGI for purposes of obtaining insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and how to drive from Texas to Ontario, Canada with four cats to escape the summer heat. (Seeing the cats are house cats, and not lions, I should be able to figure out the logistics of the drive.)
If any of you are aware of any posts or other resources that might help with the transition, please let me know in the comments. So many retirement blogs talk about how to save for the big event, but not many discuss what happens once they pull the retirement trigger.