Denver Bar Association
June 2011
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Choosing the Next Chapter of Your Life: Personal Strategic Planning for Attorneys

by Ken Stern

Ken Stern

 

M


ost executives and professionals recognize the importance of strategic planning to the success of their company or firm; however, most executives and professionals do not apply those same principles to planning the next chapter of their own lives, and lawyers do so even less frequently. In fact, personal strategic planning is every bit as important as business planning, particularly for baby boomers who are still breaking new ground in formulating alternatives to traditional career paths.

Since the ’60s, the baby boomer generation has been questioning tradition and has created new and exciting ways to do business and live their lives. The same is true with how they view their careers as they approach what traditionally was considered one’s retirement years.

Baby boomers are healthier, more active, and more innovative than previous generations at the same age. The desire of many to continue working beyond what was traditionally considered normal retirement age reflects their vitality. Others see working longer as more of a necessity than a choice, due to the recession and its impact on net worth. Continuing vitality and/or diminished net worth may motivate many baby boomers to continue working, but they often don’t want to do so at the same pace or in the same way that has been the basis for their success.

Rather than continuing to work at 100 miles per hour and then retire completely, baby boomers are looking at ways to continue their careers, but in a different fashion or at a different speed. Some boomers are looking to combine legal work with other passions or interests—such as melding law practice with a second career, becoming more active with a nonprofit, or restructuring their practice to have better work-life balance. Many have changed careers entirely.

The rewards involved in making these types of career modifications are enormous, including more enjoyment of life, less stress, and more time to pursue other interests. Rather than leaving a successful law practice that has been built over many years, baby boomer attorneys are discovering how to leverage their equity and their book of business in ways that provide a higher quality of life and still allow them to reap the benefits of their years of hard work. Additionally, choosing the next chapter of one’s career can be very beneficial to the health and continuing success of the individual’s law firm in terms of strategic and succession planning.

Choosing the next chapter of one’s life, under these circumstances, also presents some challenges and requires careful consideration and action, similar to strategic planning. First, the individual must create a vision of what the next chapter will look like and then create a specific plan of action to make that vision a reality. It is also important to create accountability measures. Harmonizing the individual’s next chapter with the ongoing best interests of the law firm also requires careful and skillful planning. Oftentimes, the firm cannot plan its future until its baby boomer senior partners have determined the next chapters of their careers. The use of a consultant or an executive coach can be very helpful in designing and executing this transition.

Taking the time to engage in personal strategic planning provides an opportunity to reexamine one’s values and interests—determining whether a new chapter in one’s legal career can or should be created and implemented; that it is consistent with one’s current values, interests, and reality; and, hence, that it is more enjoyable and rewarding. D

Ken Stern is has created his own next chapter, blending an active immigration law practice at Stern & Curray LLC with a second career in executive coaching and strategic planning with Linx Group LLC. For more information about personal strategic planning, contact Ken Stern at (303) 407-4100 or ken.stern@sterncurray.com.


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