“A Future Beyond the Law: Succession Planning for Lawyers” ... seeking your suggestions

Planning and setting goals underlie the career paths of most successful lawyers. Typically, such plans pave the way to career pinnacles such as partnership, being the principal of a sole practice and/or other success, but rarely beyond. Goalsetting does not always extend into the next phase of life – retiring from full-time practice – and a lack of vision and poor planning can cause some to struggle to transition into a secure and fulfilled life after the law.

Emily Morrow

ADLS has a webinar coming up in May (look out for further details in coming issues) entitled “A Future Beyond the Law: Succession Planning for Lawyers” that anyone grappling with these issues will not want to miss. To be delivered in a conversational, interview-type style, it will provide guidance on steps to take to secure a successful exit from legal practice. It will also address the intangible aspects of succession planning which are frequently overlooked, with management consultants Emily Morrow and John Clark giving insights from their experiences assisting practitioners in navigating exits from practice to a purposeful life beyond.

Here, Emily Morrow shares some of her thoughts on the challenges of moving towards retirement, and calls for further suggestions as to what participants want to hear about at the upcoming webinar.

Beyond the “retirement vortex” …

Early last year, I wrote an article entitled “The Retirement Vortex” (Law Talk, 13 February 2015). Shortly thereafter, it became obvious I had hit a nerve within the New Zealand legal community. Emails arrived from lawyers I did not know and letters to the editor on the topic followed.

To be honest, I was surprised by the intensity of the reaction. I had naively opened the closet door and set the stage for the long-repressed gorilla to come out. Apparently, retirement is one of those topics one worries about in private – with many lawyers uncomfortable contemplating (let alone discussing) it. I had let the cat out of the bag and Pandora out of her box.

In my original article, I explained the concept of a “retirement vortex” as follows:

“When I have had conversations with myself or other lawyers about retirement, an image of a swirling vortex comes to mind. It has a hollow centre with lines that move around its midpoint. It is circling rapidly, but sometimes it slows down a bit.

I suppose this image comes to mind because retirement is a complex and dynamic issue for lawyers. Practising law is, of course, much more than just a job. It engages an enormous amount of one’s time, demands the best of one’s intellect, involves one with many people, defines who one is and, of course, it earns money.”

The whens, whys and wherefores of retirement can be more complex than people think. Even lawyers who, on the face of it, are looking forward to retiring, have many concerns (think of these as the “swirling lines” within the vortex). Such concerns can be financial, intellectual and emotional, for example:

• Can I afford it?

• What will I do with myself?

• When should I do it?

• Who will I be if I am not a lawyer?

• What will others think of me?

• What will my life look like?

• What about my relationship with my spouse/partner?

The upcoming ADLS webinar in May

And so, fast forwarding to 2016, ADLS (with the urging of ADLS CPD Committee member and retired solicitor, David Stone) saw the need for more discussion around succession planning. John Clark and I were accordingly invited, as consultants to the legal profession, to share our insights and give voice to these questions as part of the upcoming webinar.

The webinar will be an edited version of a recorded interview, with television personality Liz Gunn asking the tough questions and John and I responding. The recording will be broadcast in the normal webinar slot on a Wednesday afternoon from 12.00. At the end of the recording, we (the presenters) will be available live to answer questions in the usual way. Subsequently, the webinar will be available On Demand.

But first, we need your help ... or “Everything you always wanted to know about retirement (but were afraid to ask)”

Many years ago, I saw the Woody Allen movie, “Everything you always wanted to know about sex (but were afraid to ask)”. It was replete with the usual neuroses and histrionics. Although we can assure a webinar devoid of neuroses and histrionics, we seek to tailor the webinar content to what will be of greatest interest to you. But this will depend on your response to this article. Your input and your stories are invaluable.

So, we invite you to submit questions, suggestions, comments and accounts of retirement planning that we can use to inform the content and structure of the webinar. Let us know what you would like to learn more about in terms of retirement and succession planning, what issues you may now be wrestling with, what you look forward to doing, what information would be most helpful to you and so forth. For younger practitioners, what help might you need in terms of your long-term planning?

We will do our best to cover as many of these topics as possible, while keeping your identity confidential. Your input and ideas will enrich the discussion – don’t be shy … we look forward to hearing from you! Please address your emails to: gavin.jolliffe@adls.org.nz by 25 March 2016.

Given the nature of the topic and the delivery style, no paper will be provided in advance of this broadcast. Instead, key points arising from the discussion will be documented and circulated among participants following the session.

About the speakers

Emily Morrow was a senior partner with a large law firm in Vermont, where she built and managed a premier trusts, estates and tax practice. Now, as a consultant primarily based in Auckland, she provides tailored consulting for law firms and lawyers, focusing on nontechnical skills that correlate with professional success, such as business development, succession planning, communication, delegation, self-presentation, leadership and team building/ management.

John Clark is the author of The Money is The Gravy, a book based on his experiences as a partner and managing partner at Minter Ellison, and on his research into what creates a fulfilling career. These days he is a management consultant who works mainly with law firms and lawyers.

Liz Gunn began at Auckland Law School in the early 1980s and, after qualifying, worked for what was then Rudd Watts and Stone. She subsequently secured broadcasting roles at Radio New Zealand National and TVNZ, fronting “One News” and “Breakfast”.

A final date for the webinar will be confirmed shortly – look out for details on our website and in the CPD pages of upcoming issues. 

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