It’s been happening more and more.
It’s the silver elephant in the room.
I’m just about to retain a potential client when I’m asked the loaded question, which typically comes in one of two varieties:
“How much longer are you planning on working? or “What happens when you retire?”
Let me share a snippet of the most recent interaction:
Potential client: “Wendy, how long have you been doing this work?”
Wendy: “Can you tell from looking at me that I have been practicing law for decades?”
Potential client’s son (after chuckling): “We are looking for someone who will be around for a while, and who isn’t long in the tooth.”
Wendy (after grimacing internally): “I’ll be sure to check out the length of my teeth, which I think are medium in length. But rest assured that I am a seasoned attorney.”
Potential client’s son: “I think you look perfectly seasoned.”
Wendy: “Yes; I have actually been described as very salty.”
If you know me and appreciate my sarcasm, you can’t feign surprise at my internal reaction or external comments. Jarring was the use of such an arcane phrase to describe an older individual. Despite the backhanded compliment about my experience, I do wonder why I have not heard back from them.
My typical retort to the retirement inquiry – however phrased – is to respond that it is perfectly reasonable and understandable. I would ask the same question if the relationship was reversed. I appreciate the concern about working with an aging solo attorney. But my gut reaction is the realization that I do appear to match my chronological age. This is despite a recent comment made by a good friend that I look ten years younger. Yeah, yeah, we all know that each decade is now the new decade one or two below. I suggested she schedule an appointment with her ophthalmologist.
As you know from my prior blogs, I embrace the aging process. Part of that is the refusal to succumb to Botox and fillers. Perhaps I should reconsider to stem the repeated inquiry. For clients much more chronologically advanced than me, I proclaim that I have absolutely no intention of administering their estates. The inference in that statement is the understanding that my representation of their executor or trustee would mean that their death was woefully premature. But I do advise all clients and their family members that while I have no intention of going anywhere soon – at least not permanently – I am working on a succession plan. I’m no Logan Roy, so it surely will be devoid of the drama of the critically acclaimed HBO series.
Implementing a good succession plan is my obligation and requirement. My practice, my team, and my clients are extremely special and an extension of my family. Finding the right experienced individual who shares my professional passions, philosophies, and creativity is not going to be easy. But it’s certainly a work in process.
So, if you know of anyone who would be a good match, and who is younger than me, please let me know.
I’m striving for a better answer. I may only have a few more years to go before my incisors require filing.