Exit planning: Life after Partner.

The traditional career path for lawyers was to join a firm, work your way up to partner and then retire age 60-65 and head off into the sun. But research from Investec Private Banking shows how that expectation is changing; 55% of lawyers now expect to retire later than 65 and 44% are worried about not having sufficient savings for their retirement.

Life expectancy in the UK is currently over 81 years and increasing numbers of people are mentally and physically fit until they are into their 90s. As well as living longer, many of us also face a more expensive retirement than we might have expected previously. According to research from Saga, one-third of over-50s are still paying into a mortgage. Many are still also choosing to help out their children, who are finding it hard to get on to the property ladder.

Longer, more expensive retirements will require us to continue to work past our formal retirement age, and many will welcome this as a way to make our later years happier and more fulfilling. But few will want to continue working at the same level. After all, the law is generally a highly stressful profession and many lawyers will choose to scale back their work levels as they approach the end of their career. So what options do lawyers reaching retirement age have and how can their firms help support those ambitions?

When you start to consider exit planning, it’s vital to make sure you are clear about your objectives. Obviously, you’ll need to have financial security, but you also need to consider when you want to leave your firm, how to handle succession and achieving any other ambitions you may have relating to your family, community, charities, legacy etc.

You may choose to leave your firm and switch careers, commonly going into teaching as a lecturer or tutor, working for a niche legal recruitment firm or joining one of the companies that act as a hub for freelance lawyers working on a project basis.

Alternatively, many lawyers choose to create a ‘portfolio career’ for themselves, combining several different roles. You may be able to move to a consultancy role with your current firm, providing continuity for your clients and colleagues, while setting up your own business, investing in property development or taking on a NED, governor or trustee role. Many retiring lawyers look for executive director roles at other firms.

To prepare for this new kind of career, lawyers need to stop thinking of their CV purely as a list of their legal experience and to consider instead the kinds of skills and abilities they have developed that could be transferred to other industries. Lawyers are often seen as logical, calm and accurate with excellent administrative skills that could be useful in many different roles. Managerial or public speaking experience can also be a plus, as can any experience of being involved in the running of your firm.

The obvious starting point for a portfolio career of this kind is to scale back on your work with your current firm, but why would law firms choose to support this? The age profile of the UK legal sector is changing and the average age is getting older. As the baby boomers continue to retire, firms are going to struggle to keep the relationships they have built up with clients and the expertise they had in leading the practice.

Concerned about this change, The Lawyer is currently conducting an analysis of retirement-related issues and the opportunity for UK firms to differentiate themselves by offering specific retirement-related assistance to their partners. Allowing partners to take on external roles outside their firm both pre and post retirement and creating new consulting roles after they retire will allow firms to retain the knowledge, expertise and relationships a partner has built up while also offering an incentive that encourages new blood to join them.

Zest have first-hand knowledge of life in the legal sector and have worked with many professionals at all stages of their career. If you’re interested in preparing for the future and would like to find out more about the options available, why not get in touch on 0333 370 46 16 or info@zestrecruitmentandconsultancy.co.uk.