I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked, “Are you retired?” or “Are you still working?” The question comes in different tones of voice. Sometimes it sounds like a way of saying “I can’t believe you still go to work.” Often there’s another not-so-hidden implication: “What are you, nuts?”
We all deceive ourselves, and I’m no exception. The calendar doesn’t lie, and it says that this year marks the 50th year I have been in the law business. To put that in context, I started ten years before Derek Jeter was born! The calendar also says that between my last column and this one, I hit the three-fourths of a century mark.
I suppose one of these days I will retire. I don’t like the idea of letting life make this particular decision for me (also known as “dying with your boots on”), but I’m not sure what I would do with my newfound freedom. There’s only so much time you can spend devouring baseball statistics. Maybe I can just “cut back,” although there isn’t much of a market for part-time trial lawyers.
Choosing what to do in life is often a hit-or-miss proposition. I think I picked law because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. Looking back, I can tell you one thing. I had no idea what I was getting into.
Not all lawyers are happy with their choice of occupation. I saw a recent survey that puts lawyers’ job satisfaction somewhere in the middle, lower than ministers and firefighters but higher than roofers and laborers. About the same as accountants. U.S. News, which seems to rate just about everything, reports that “lawyer” ranks 51st out of the 100 “best jobs” in America, far behind dentistry and massage therapy but ahead of “bill collector” and “exterminator.” In first place is “software developer,” a profession hardly anyone knew existed when I picked mine.
The problem with retiring, as I see it, is that you can’t really un-retire. So it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. And of course work is different now than it used to be. I remember when my grandfather retired from his job as manager of the Claremont office of Metropolitan Life Insurance. In his day you turned 65, got a watch, and went home.
I don’t know whether my grandfather liked or disliked his job, or whether the question ever occurred to him. After retiring, he did drop by his old office from time to time, but I don’t think he missed going to work every day. It gave him time to read, especially American history, and listen to Red Sox games. It also gave him time to become a member of the New Hampshire legislature, neither the first nor the last retiree to do so.
As for me, I confess that I still like what I do, at least some of the time. A friend of mine who teaches at a local law school once told me that I was the “last lawyer who actually likes practicing law.” That can’t be right, although there are people who specialize in helping lawyers find something else to do. According to that job survey, lawyers find their occupation more satisfying as they get older. And it’s not just about work – their sense of well-being as a whole improves in later life. On that score, I plead guilty. I hope it lasts.
As for Derek Jeter, he’ll be 40 in June, and he has announced that he is retiring. This will be his last year playing for the Yankees.
I wonder what he’ll do next.