Editor’s Note: This article appeared in the September 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. This is the final part of a 5-part series on Legal Connection. Click here for Part 1, click here for Part 2, click here for Part 3, and click here for Part 4.
By Ronald M. Sandgrund, Esq., InQ.
InQ: Anonymous is a well-respected litigation lawyer who has toiled at the bar for more than thirty-five years. About a year ago, this lawyer told me excitedly how she had arranged to retire in 2014, and about the many passions she was set to pursue come that golden day. Everyone in her life was on board and the smoothly planned transition was set to begin January 1. However, despite all her planning, the earnest cooperation of her partners, and the support of her family and friends, unexpected road blocks cropped up, driven in large part by her law firm’s sudden recognition that it needed her litigating and managerial talents for a while longer—although how much longer remains unclear. Anonymous did note the following in passing to me in an e-mail:
InQ: Anonymous promised me that her exit strategy would not involve her desk.
This article examined what a handful of lawyers had to say about exploring exit strategies in their own lives. Some common themes emerged. First, greater fulfillment likely is waiting for you beyond the “Exit” sign, whenever you might choose to go through that door. Second, “marry well,” meaning, find a significant other who shares your life’s vision and supports your efforts to find contentment. Of course, some of us prefer to fly solo, and there is no reason these folks cannot be equally fulfilled. Finally, don’t “live large”; moderate your accumulation of material things and unnecessary debt, so that you are freer to change your trajectory, reprioritize your life, and find even greater happiness.
InQ: Brian, tell us a little bit about yourself?
InQ: What do you think a lawyer should do who has spent four years in college and three years in law school, and who has been a lawyer for several years, but who then realizes that he or she doesn’t really like being lawyer?
Brian C.: Well, maybe before going to law school, they studied something else—maybe they could switch to that.
InQ: But what if they’ve been practicing ten to fifteen years, and they’ve bought a big house that they owe a lot of money on and they’ve had a couple kids, and they still owe money for law school loans. If they switched jobs, they would probably make a lot less money and would have to give up the house, and their kids might have to move away from their friends and not be able to take fun vacations like they used to.
Brian C.: They need to take a job where they will be happy. A house or nice vacations only make you happy for a little while, but having a job you like has a big impact. Your job should be fun, and you do better at a job you enjoy. If you are an unhappy lawyer, I think you will not be a good lawyer.
InQ: What do you mean by happy? What is happiness?
Brian C.: Being liked and loved.
InQ: Is there anything about your parents’ jobs that you don’t like?
Brian C.: Well, my dad is gone for two weeks, then home for two to four weeks, then gone again. That’s his schedule.
InQ: How does that work for you?
Brian C.: It’s okay. I see him on Skype, which is fun. It’s hard when he misses a big event or a holiday. Like this past Easter. He wasn’t home, so we just acted like it was a regular day.
InQ: What if you were the mommy or daddy who was the lawyer, and you were going to take a new job, and this meant losing all the things we just talked about—the house, the vacations, and so on. How would you explain this to your kids?
Brian C.: I’d just tell them that we’re starting over—that things will be different, but that there always are fun things to do in the world. They can still see their old friends and they’ll make new friends.
InQ: I hear that you played in five tournament baseball games this past weekend. What if you had to give up tournament baseball as part of your parent’s job change? How would you react?
Brian C.: I would try to act nice and understanding. I know they would not want me to have to give up tournament baseball, but they had no choice because they don’t like their job. I don’t want them to be doing something every day they do not like. We can still have fun.
 Michael Corleone,Godfather Part III.