You will never retire.
You will not just work for a few years to pay off your loans, build up a nest egg, and then flee. You will stay in the profession until you are forced out or die.
Given that some people will be forced out of legal practice by poor economic conditions, and a few others will have the chance to jump ship and work in finance, to have 10% of the lawyer population over the age of 65 means that almost no lawyers can retire.
And even when lawyers do retire, you know what they do? They go practice law some more. Robert Morgantheau (pictured above) retired from the district attorney’s office at the age of 90. How is he spending the rest of his golden years? As an of counsel at Wachtell.
Some people blame the golden handcuffs for keeping people in the business for so long, but I don’t think that’s it. My guess is that over decades of billing 2,400 hours a year and trying to justify the life to yourself, law becomes your identity. You can’t survive in the business that long any other way, you’d realize the bullshittiness of it all and go Office Space. Instead, you drink the Koolaid and convince yourself that being a lawyer is really important and meaningful. But, this survival mechanism means that in the end you can never leave, because outside of law you’re nothing.
Think you’re different? So did all the people who are now working into their 80s and 90s.