Governance & Membership
President's Message - April 2023
Perhaps the Toughest Decision of All
By Brian Hermanson
Having practiced law for over 43 years, I have watched many lawyers come to the end of their practice. It is a time of concern and doubt for many of them; giving up what has defined their existence is never going to be easy. Deciding when it is the right time to quit practicing law and navigating how to make the transition to closing your practice is certainly a life-changing event.
Many attorneys have law partners who can help with making the decision. It is hoped that the associates of those lawyers will take the time to help their officemate understand the need to retire from the practice. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. It is difficult to tell someone who was your mentor in your earlier years as an attorney that they need to step aside. I have seen lawyers from great firms have difficulty with legal issues that, a few years earlier, were second nature to them. It seemed that no one was willing to have that talk with their partner.
In the solo practice setting, it may be even more difficult for someone to take a friend aside and have a difficult talk about closing one’s practice. The independence the solo practitioner has in their practice may make others afraid to discuss such sensitive issues, but there is a great need for someone to help their friend with such a difficult decision.
Right now, the question may be how to go about preparing for the time that each of us will certainly be facing somewhere down the road. How do we prepare for the end of our practice, and equally important, how do we recognize that the time for us to call it a career is now?
The articles in this month’s bar journal are meant to help each of us. They seek to make us think about our fellow senior lawyers and consider what each of us will face in the future. By following the guides provided in this month’s journal, we can prepare and be ready for those upcoming decisions. Preparation can help us to be ready and lessen the emotional impact of that difficult decision on us and our family members.
Something we, as attorneys, need to understand is that the mere closing of one’s practice does not mean that we stop being lawyers. We are still highly trained people who are great at problem-solving and aiding others with difficult decisions. I see many of my fellow attorneys volunteer their time to their churches, service clubs, not-for-profits and many of the thousands of organizations that would celebrate the skills that a retired attorney would bring to their group. There is an opportunity to do things in the community that we may have wished we had time to do over the years but were too busy to.
We all get great comfort and joy from our law practice. But think how much joy you could feel from reading a child a book, teaching a Sunday school class or helping the homeless. There are so many additional things we can do. Getting away from the pressure of practicing law and spreading your wings by volunteering your time to others may be the best way to write that next chapter.
Because closing down one’s practice is not an ending in the strictest sense. It is the beginning of a new adventure — a new adventure that may be the very thing our life story needed.
Brian Hermanson serves as district attorney for the 8th District of Oklahoma.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 94 Vol 4 (April 2023).
Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.