Updated: Oct. 8, 2021

Managing Transitions in Life

Different people handle transitions differently. For many people, an “I’ll figure it out when I get there” approach is the ultimate act of confidence, and faith in one’s own abilities. At the same time, the supports that help a person feel like they are on track, namely one’s career, may no longer be present. We believe it makes sense to take a titrated approach to retirement, where a person can gradually engage new activities in the time one normally spends practicing law. Often this is a multi-year transition that includes a gradual reduction in legal responsibilities.

William Bridges wrote a book called Transitions that has been a best-seller since the 1970s and is refreshing for its straight-forward model. He says that a transition involves an ending, an uncomfortable middle period, and a beginning. Yet when we rush the uncomfortable part, then an authentic switch is not allowed to happen. In some instances, a person will live with dissatisfaction to avoid this uncomfortable middle period.

Before we figure out what the next chapter will look like, we raise the question “what did my legal career stand for?” If you are still trying to figure out that question, it will be hard to sincerely take on new engagements. Was law about supporting your family? Being looked to as an expert capable of navigating complicated problems? Was it about helping those who cannot represent themselves?

It may help to define your greatest sources of pride as well as your regrets. Will you miss the role of “expert” once you are no longer practicing? The WSBA Senior Lawyer Section is a place where you can connect with other attorneys engaged in these questions. Once you’ve answered these questions you can move on to the next page Identifying New Directions for Oneself.