Lawyers Get Ready for an Encore

Philadelphia attorney Robert Heim is contemplating his encore career. Photo courtesy of Eileen Kennedy, from "Beyond Success."

His law firm's policy of limiting membership to its policy committee to attorneys younger than 65 seemed fine to Robert Heim - until he became ineligible at age 64 for a two-year term. It made the Philadelphia litigator start thinking about the next stage of his life.

He is not alone in the legal world in contemplating an encore career that gives back to his community, says Barbara Rose in an article called "Not Done Yet" in the April issue of ABA Journal.

She quotes Carl Cooper, a diversity consultant in Pittsburgh who advises bar associations and law firms, as saying he can't imagine not working because "I would really feel guilty."

Cooper, 65, plans to find ways to mentor others and teach. Heim, 67, is thinking of starting a mediation practice. The article also profiles an attorney who has transitioned to teaching at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and another who plans to go back to school to explore certification to teach math and history in a public high school.

There are plenty more in the pipeline. The American Bar Association (ABA) estimates there are more than 250,000 lawyers age 55 or older who are facing a huge life transition that used to be called "retirement" and now may be an encore career.

Mark Miller, author of the nationally syndicated column "Retire Smart", told Rose, "Many don't have a clue how to pull this off. This is a very profound life change, every bit as important as a first job, marriage, kids. It's a pivotal change, and whatever the pivot is will likely be the trajectory they're on for 20 years or more."

Fortunately, the ABA provides help for lawyers at this stage. It offers ideas in its Second Season of Service section on the ABA website, which lists books, volunteer opportunities, resources, a news archive and answers to frequently asked questions.

Robert Heim's wife, former tax lawyer Eileen Kennedy, is a professional photographer who is capturing his transition in a photo essay called "Beyond Success."