The Seasons of Your Career: Winter, When Careers Transform

11/01/2011
From CBA Practice Link, November 2011

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Lawyers are not immortal. Older lawyers who continue to apply the client service lessons learned throughout the spring, summer and autumn of their careers, and who keep up with evolving professional rules and trends through professional development, should not automatically feel that reaching a particular age requires them to retire.

However, at some point every lawyer must confront the issue of transitioning the practice to others. The short sighted viewpoint is that planning to do so is more bother than it is worth, and that the better course to stay in practice and “die with your boots on.” A planned sale or transition of a practice is far preferable, because it allows lawyers to transform their lives toward enjoying the fruits of their labor as they choose. That's the kind of wisdom that comes with age, in the winter of a career.

Earlier this year, the newsletter of the Ontario Bar Association's Sole, Small Firm and General Practice Section gave commentary from lawyers who have sold firms several times, and from accountants and advisors who have helped them do so. They all agreed that, with proper planning, a practice sale is a viable alternative for lawyers. Even the smallest and most personal practices can be saleable for the right price and under the right terms, provided that all ethical requirements are met. The issue is not one of feasibility so much as it is personal choice. The focus should be on personal satisfaction, self-worth and well-being, depending on the type of practice and the lawyer's relationship to it.

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