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Senior LawyersThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Section on Senior Lawyers

February 2012, vol. 3, no. 2

Act III

“All the world’s a stage.” Somebody like Shakespeare wrote that. So, you are entering the last stage of your professional life. This is Act Ill. Before you take the stage in Act III, please read this.... just some random thoughts. I’m sure you can add to the list.

Triggering Events

When you are of a certain age contemplating what to do next in your law practice, the first question is, “Do you have a plan?” One of the things that would trigger you to come up with a plan for the last portion of your law practice is to look in the mirror. That will perhaps be a wake up call that it is time to have a plan. In the process of doing this, you must assess yourself. That means your mental acuity and your physical ability. This is a time when you have to be candid and brutally honest with yourself. I must do full disclosure here. I am a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney and so my thoughts are geared towards that. Whatever your practice area, in doing your plan, you should inventory your practice, evaluate your strengths, and give some thought to case selection and your appearance. Most importantly, you need to be prepared to laugh.

Inventory

In performing an inventory on your law practice, obviously the first thing you do is an inventory of your files. How many files do you have? What sort of money will be generated by these files? This is a painful process but it must be done. The second thing you must do is you must evaluate your overhead. That includes your computer set up, rent and all of the things that you are all aware of that go into overhead. This is the time to become lean and mean. In that vein and in that process, you should evaluate your marketing sources. That means that you should avoid any advertisements that would require a one year commitment. The best way to use public marketing in my estimation is obviously on the internet. That is one of the things that people look to in selecting an attorney. They obviously also look to other things like word of mouth. In any event, I say no long contracts, only month to month Internet presence. Finally, take your referral sources, i.e. other lawyers, to lunch.

Your Strengths

You can come up with your own list of strengths, but I think your two main strengths are colleagues and experience. It’s always been about family and friends. Certainly colleagues who know you and your abilities are the best reference that you can have. That is one of the cores of your strength. Do not hesitate to contact these colleagues in terms of discussing and obtaining any business that they are interested in farming out. (See Inventory above.) Your second strength is your experience. Do not minimize your years of practice. This is invaluable and it is one of the things that will rejuvenate and regenerate your practice and help you greatly to get through Act III.

Case Selection

Three things: No heavy hitting. That means unless the case is a sure thing, do not get involved in a case that is going to involve a great deal of financial investment on your part. Secondly, you should avoid premises liability cases unless they have a particular fact pattern that makes liability as close to a sure thing as you can get. Finally, avoid the slip and fall case unless you can absolutely establish the elements of a viable slip and fall case. If there is ice and snow involved, obviously you know about things like the unnatural accumulation of ice. In order to really re train yourself on slip and fall cases, the first thing you should do is get out the Injury Instructions as to what is necessary to prove a slip and fall case and/or premises liability.

Appearance

If you are going to dye your hair, get a professional to do it. Please avoid monochromatic hair color. It not only really looks cheap, but it is not complimentary to the character that is built into your presence and your face. Obviously, I prefer the natural look. The best thing to do for your appearance in my estimation is exercise, exercise, exercise, and diet, diet, diet. You should also join and become active, if you haven’t already, in a service club. One of the things that energizes you, in my estimation, is giving back and helping others. Service clubs are many. The three that come to mind are Kiwanis, Rotary and Lions Club. There are others and you should become active in them. Finally, with regard to your appearance, stay active and connected with your local bar association and the Illinois State Bar Association. By attending these events, it energizes you to meet other colleagues and to talk over cases. That process never ends whether you are young or in advancing years. Finally, if you are saying “What?” a lot when people ask you questions, check into hearing aids. This is no time to be vain.

Laughter

Even though the process of putting together Act III at first appears daunting, laugh! If you can laugh and maintain your sense of humor, you will not only get through Act III but you will have a fruitful and wonderful practice. Good luck to all you legal actors who are entering Act III. The curtain is rising, the house lights come down, enter stage right. Good luck. ■

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Editor’s Note: If yours is a family law practice, apply these same principles. Choose your clients carefully; do not get involved in a case that is going to require a great deal of emotional investment on your part; and be certain you get paid. If yours is a business practice ...you get the idea.


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