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Dear Anna,
I’m starting to think about retirement in the next three years. When will I know that the time is right for me?

When it comes to retirement, I always think of that great line by C.S. Lewis: “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”. I like to think about retirement as a series of steps made slowly and consistently rather than a hastily planned farewell lunch.   

Dream differently: It turns out the clarity of your dream and how different it is to being a lawyer are the factors that can tell you if you are ready. If you identify really strongly with being a lawyer and only a lawyer, there is a temptation to cling on as long as you can. The indication you are ready is to have another context or focus for your legal skills. I call this strategy swapping places. You are swapping your identity from being a senior practitioner to being a senior member of the business community, a university lecturer or a member of a social enterprise. All of these options maintain a strong identity as a lawyer. It’s the context of how you use your legal skills that’s changing. 

Lawyer and … This approach is about finding activities outside the world of law that can be your pattern in retirement. It could be time with family, playing more sport, or that long-planned involvement in community theatre. It turns out that people who can both dream differently and take the lawyer and … approach make the most satisfying transitions into retirement, according to a 2018 study in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour. Use the time saved on the commute to really think about what you enjoy. Use a three-month part-time working pattern over winter to try new things or put together a series of lunches with friends to discuss the challenge. Start small and explore many different things to find the combination that’s right for you.

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