The recent Depression (2008, not 1932) has dashed the hopes and expectations of many lawyers. A recent survey reported by USA Today in its March 7, 2014 edition says that 58% of those between the ages of 54 and 64 years of age will retire later than the originally planned.
Postponement generally comes from a reduction in the value of the assets that were to be used to fund the retirement and the fear that the current value of the asset pool (stocks, bonds, 401K, real estate, etc.) no longer will be sufficient to sustain the lifestyle of the retiree, given the extended life expectancy of our population.
There is another reason. As noted in the recently published book, Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Next 6,000 Days?, most lawyers don’t know what to do with themselves after they leave their practice. While the law practice has value, the price for the practice is seldom the issue … it’s what will I do with myself? Until you can answer the question of "what will I do" and "where will I go," one is likely to stay put. Only coincidentally, this postpones the time when savings accounts must be used.
The pressure is increasingly being felt by our Baby Boomers … sell the practice or "die in your boots." The latter option is not attractive and deprives one’s family of the money that could have been paid for the value of the practice before it (the practice) dissipates and/or the lawyer dies.
Life After Law, What Will You Do For the Next 6000 Days? My soon- to-be-released book is a guide to why aging baby boomer lawyers should be planning for their next career. The ABA has concluded that 400,000 lawyers will retire in the next 10 years. That is equivalent to the entire membership of the ABA, the largest volunteer organization in the world!
According to a different report, without reference to law, 10,000 people retire daily!
Look for a dramatic change in our culture as we seek to learn how to live longer, productive lives in different careers. Of course, the economy will also change as older folks become the dominant consumers in this country.
“I am really tired, and want to retire.” But, retirement is out of reach for many lawyers after their homes and retirement plans took heavy hits over the last few years. “Business purgatory” is how one phrased it.
Delays in retirement are now common, with 38% in one survey saying their retirement will be at least 5 years later than expected. The income stream for many lawyers comes from their law practice. Selling, closing or merging the practice are options, but none are likely to provide the same income stream the lawyer is accustomed to receiving.
Unless the lawyer is willing to adjust one’s life style, he will remain in practice, working to build up the practice further in order to reap the rewards needed to fund retirement.
I have been getting more calls from lawyers wanting to retire, wanting to sell their law practices. As a result, I started writing a new book. I just finished Life After Law: What Will You Do With the Rest of Your Life? It is being edited now and will be available for sale in October.
As a result, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the definition of Goodwill, the primary asset a lawyer has to sell. And though it is not consistent with the accounting profession’s definition, I have come upon a new definition that I believe is more meaningful to the average lawyer, whether buying or selling:
Goodwill can be defined as legacy … it’s your legacy that you’re passing along to others … It’s your reputation, your phone number, your system and way of doing business, all the intangible elements that made you successful and provides you, the selling lawyer, with what to sell … The better is your reputation, the more value your law practice will have.
A client of mine has just listed his practice for sale.
Established general law practice in a major trade center in the Eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Enjoy a sustained revenue stream equal to most major urban areas, yet with a lower cost of living and with access to year around outdoor activities. Situated along California’s highway 395.
More elderly find they cannot afford to retire … they must continue to work. The recent economic woes have taken a big bite out of the retirement hopes and plans of the Baby Boomers. And this includes lawyers.
Just today, a lawyer in his late 60’s called me to talk about selling his practice and retiring. But, he said, he enjoys what he does and financially cannot see his way to retiring. For interesting tax reasons, he turned away from selling his practice. Of course, he didn’t consult me before he made this decision.
But, I find it interesting that the prediction made by the ABA only a few years ago that by 2020 (or perhaps sooner), 400,000 lawyers would retire. As evidenced by the phone conversation today, I believe the numbers are correct, but the timing is not. Succession planning, whether a solo or large firm practitioner, will require more thought than we anticipated. And experts should be consulted to determine sales potential, tax planning (both estate and consequences of a sale) and future personal life planning.