Getting old has never been so good. If you’re healthy and productive and eager to keep working, there’s a law firm out there that wants you. Need work/life balance? No problem. Fancy setting your own schedule? Done. No matter that you’re an aging baby boomer approaching senior status. You can demand-and get-flexibility.
That’s what Kenneth Adams did. Three years ago, Adams, then 58, had been working at Dickstein Shapiro at full velocity for 30 years and was one of the firm’s most highly compensated partners. He led a unique practice in complex antitrust litigation for large corporate plaintiffs, and he loved the element of risk. But after recovering more than $2 billion for 150 companies in a multiyear case against an international vitamin cartel, Adams needed a break. So he took two months off in 2004, he says, “just to get reacquainted with my family and chill out a bit.”
At first, Adams figured he would get bored soon and be itching to get back to work. But that didn’t happen. “I enjoyed slowing everything down and having breakfast with my wife,” he says. “Until I left, I had no concept of how much stress I’d been accustomed to living with.” He wasn’t ready to retire altogether, but Adams knew he wanted to make a significant change.
So he arranged a meeting with Dickstein’s managing partner, Michael Nannes. “I told him, ‘I want to reduce my hours enough so that I can lose the stress. I want to turn the practice over. I want to try some new things before I fully retire. And, I want to be deequitized. The only way I’ll feel free is if I am not comped at the same level.’ ”
Today, both Adams and Nannes say the arrangement has succeeded. Adams no longer has management responsibilities, and three junior partners have taken over leadership of the practice. He still advises the team and heads up a few litigation matters, but mostly he focuses on helping the firm create alternative fee arrangements. Instead of billing 2,000 hours a year as he used to, Adams now books roughly 1,300. That leaves him plenty of time to pursue his other high-risk passion: tournament poker. He competes in seven competitions a year, including the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas.