Speaking to a lawyer a few weeks ago, I was interested to hear them mention a ‘mini retirement’ as one of their motivations for exploring legal consulting and a new way of working. Given that I’ve worked as a recruiter for legal consultants for almost 15 years, it’s a wonder I hadn’t heard of this term before. Their description resonated with me as just another example of the growing interest we see from lawyers looking to take periods of extended leave or otherwise create a more balanced working lifestyle without giving up on their legal career. This interest has been further enhanced by the Covid pandemic putting work-life balance and mental health top of the agenda for many professionals.
So what does the term ‘mini retirement’ mean? It was first coined by the American entrepreneur and investor Tim Ferriss in his book The 4-Hour Work Week, and refers to a period of time-out from work typically lasting from three months to two years. Whether used for an opportunity to re-energise, reflect or try out something new, Ferriss raises the idea of taking several mini retirements at different points in your working life rather than focusing on one definitive end-point. Data from Aviva shows that one in four Brits currently aspire to retire early, mainly because they want to experience more freedom while they’re still physically fit and well enough to enjoy it. Retiring early is not feasible for everyone so a mini retirement offers an appealing alternative.
All the above may sound very similar to taking a sabbatical, which increasingly is being offered by employers as a way to retain their top talent. A sabbatical however is not easy when your team’s under pressure and hiring freezes mean resources are overstretched. With all the challenges of leave policies, internal politics, team dynamics and career progression, it can be much more difficult to negotiate and then enjoy a period of leave when you’re in a permanent role. If a sabbatical opportunity isn’t there, you may have to consider getting comfortable with walking away from your job and when your mini retirement ends, re-entering the workforce. Not something many would feel confident doing!
It’s for this reason that legal consulting and mini retirements go so well together because consulting allows you to plan and control how and when you take extended leave. With legal consulting there’s the ability to keep progressing your career, instead of just pausing it, by returning to an elevated role and doing better than just picking up where you left off.
A mini retirement can also be great for exploring a second career, scaling up a side business or even throwing yourself into a hobby. Then of course there’s the opportunity to travel, experience new cultures and broaden the mind, or the simple appeal of more time with the family, perhaps making the most of quality time with your children. We have consultants who use the time to write books, run sustainability start-ups, walk across Europe or be around to support their teenagers through exam season. The variety of possibilities we see are endless.
So, how do you know if a mini retirement is right for you? First and foremost, you need to be clear on what you want to do with the time off. This is not about being able to watch everything on your Netflix list – it has to be more considered so that when you come back you have a good story to tell about what you have learnt and why it is going to make you better in whatever job you take on next. That could be as simple as the fact that you are returning refreshed, invigorated and ready to embrace new challenges.
I appreciate this could sound like a dream scenario but it’s important to remember there’s always going to be an element of risk associated with a career break, and you need to ensure you’re properly financially equipped before you down tools. Determine how long you wish to take off, your living expenses for that period, the costs associated with how you are occupying the mini retirement and then ensure you have a buffer in case it’s needed.
You also need a plan for what you may do when your mini retirement ends. If you’re concerned about what that return to work might look like, I would advise taking the time to speak with your network and resourcing providers such as Peerpoint to understand the market landscape before you make the leap. Do your research on how you can make it work for you, and be clear on what you’re out to achieve.
At Peerpoint we work with many legal consultants who have incredible stories regarding their own mini retirements and have reaped the benefits in both their personal and professional lives. If you’d like to talk through how legal consulting can offer you a life that allows you to do more, please get in touch with one of the team.