More lawyers are working well into their 70s. Indeed, I am no longer surprised when I meet lawyers still practicing in their 80s. What’s behind this growing trend of aging attorneys?

In my experience, the most popular reasons lawyers work well into their sunset years are that they:

  • Can’t afford to retire.
  • Love practicing law and can’t imagine doing anything else.
  • Have no clue what else they would do if they retired, even though they may not love (or even like) practicing law anymore.

These justifications are entirely logical and practical—traits that occur naturally in most lawyers. But most lawyers fail to consider the most obvious risk to one’s practice as they age: a serious health problem.

Consider These Alarming Health Statistics

One quarter of new cancer diagnoses occur in people aged 65 to 74. After age 65, the risk of Alzheimer's doubles every five years. About 80 percent of the people who are 65 years of age and older have some form of heart disease. These and many other ailments often come with little to no warning.

If Your Health Suffers, So Does Your Practice

For solo practitioners or small law firm owners, the consequences of a serious health condition can be severe. Staff or spouses are left to scramble after a sudden health issue arises or after a sudden death. Active client matters may suffer. In the case of deteriorating physical or mental conditions, the solo practitioner or small firm owner may only have mere weeks or a few months to plan a wind down.

The bottom line? The longer you work, the more likely you are going to leave a mess for everyone involved.

Stop While You’re Ahead

You’ve already been dealt a pretty good hand and have had a pretty good career. Don’t overplay that hand as you age. Remember, the mortality rate of lawyers remains 100%. Retire sooner rather than later. It will allow you to fully enjoy your sunset years while also ensuring you do what is best by your clients, staff and family.