The Wave of the Future?
Lawyers in practice for 50 years often begin to think about what they’ll do in the twilight of their careers and lives. The kids have finished college and retirement in–come has kicked in. What to do now? Retire? And do what? Sit around the house and torture your mate? There is only so much golf and tennis you can play. Travel is an option, but you can’t travel 365 days a year. Keep working until you are carried out feet first? Maybe—many lawyers do so.
How can such lawyers continue to apply the expertise learned over a lifetime of practice in a productive way? A recent development in Atlanta caught my eye. David Baker is a past–chair of our GP Division and practiced for 40+ years with a mega–firm. The firm has a mandatory retirement age of 70. Sure, the firm will provide you an office for life in recognition of your long service, but you then have little to do. Baker chose a different course: he moved to a much smaller firm because he didn’t want to stop practicing. Mentoring with his expertise is part of what he brings to his new firm. Baker says he is renewed and exhilarated.
This may be an emerging trend for experienced lawyers to use their skills in a way that is useful to other and younger attorneys. Such lawyers can act as consultants to solo and small firm attorneys. Who among us has not called on an older lawyer for advice on how to handle particular matters or situations? Need help with a legal theory, a brief, or a trial? Just call on your consulting lawyer.
A consulting mentor concept may be particularly useful in smaller communities where lawyers are more familiar with each other. The experienced lawyer could act like contract lawyers for specific matters. We have been so associated on numerous cases where the perception is that our expertise was particularly relevant to a specific case.
Such consulting mentors may be the wave of the future. Many state bars now have a mentoring requirement for newly admitted lawyers. These free programs, however, only cover the transition into law practice but not future needs. Consulting mentors can be compensated according to the complexity of a matter. Future development of this concept can be of service to the profession and the public.
Chuck Driebe, editor-in-chief of SOLO, has a general practice in Jonesboro, Georgia. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.