At a time when we expect both to live and to work longer, how we imagine and reshape retirement is of increasing importance. This is as true for senior professionals as it is for anyone else.

The Milestones research paper, Reshaping Retirement – The challenges and opportunities for partners retiring from professional services firms, looks at the experiences of transition of 19 senior City lawyers as they moved from full time practice into a life after equity partnership.

All law firm partners will, at some time, have to leave their law firms. How this happens, and when, and whose choice it is, are what make each individual’s experience of it unique. There are nonetheless common threads that run through those experiences – how we deal with our anxieties and uncertainty, what we need to do to prepare ourselves for whatever comes next, whether we are able to take control of the process, and how we meet the challenges and find the opportunities that life after law involves. We also all have to recognise that this transition is a process, not simply a moment in time.

Our research suggests there can be an unsettling amount of personal and professional turbulence surrounding the run up to retirement. Being secretive about intentions can be so much easier for partners than being transparent; and once they share their thoughts with the senior management of their firm, the result is often a period of uncertainty and challenge on any number of fronts.

When these endings are not handled well between partner and firm, the result can be a damaging divergence of interests, creating tension around equity status, client handovers and succession planning.

For the individual there is the question of what to do next. And how to adjust to being at home more, and coping without the infrastructure, support and network which had been so readily available.

The 19 retired partners shared their experiences with us, and the degree to which they managed to navigate the enormity of that change, both with their peers and management, and with their families. They also shared how they wished certain things could have been done differently, and where the right level of support would have changed the whole experience for the better.

Endings matter but the ‘how’ is always more important than the ‘when’.

To get a copy of the research paper, please email us at and if you would like to talk to us about some of those challenges and opportunities call Jane Harris on 07973 488 539 or George Wilkinson on 07875 570 365