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Attorneys must financially prepare for life during retirement

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Indiana Lawyer Focus

Retirement is nothing new, but what attorneys do once they leave fulltime practice is changing.

When partners were given the gold watch in the past, they usually kept their office at the firm, maybe taking an of counsel position. They came in regularly and attended all the partner meetings.

Now retirement can mean continuing to practice law, or quitting completely and traveling, or starting another career in a different field. Some young attorneys are setting savings goals so they can retire early to pursue other passions.

“I don’t think there is a normal anymore,” said Ken Kobe, executive director of Barnes & Thornburg LLP. “It all kind of depends on people’s personal situation.”

While life after retirement may vary, one primary tool used to save for the golden years has remained the same. Many law firms, like many businesses and nonprofits across the country, offer a defined contribution plan like a 401(k) plan to their employees to help them tuck money away for life after they exit the workforce.

BrightScope, a financial information and investment research company based in San Diego, looks at 401(k) plans in several sectors including the legal industry. The company recently released a report identifying the Top 25 law firms with the highest-ranked 401(k) plans containing more than $100 million in assets.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP, headquartered in Indianapolis, ranked 24th. Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, which has an office in the Circle City, ranked 10th on the list.

Despite the economic recession which decimated many retirement savings, financial experts and attorneys who handle financial matters maintain defined contribution plans are good vehicles for preparing for life after work. They are likely here to stay and unlikely to undergo any significant alterations.

If anything has changed, it is the increasing importance for employees to participate in their company’s plans and pay attention to their own investments. Workers need more sophistication than just following such often-heard advice that employees nearing retirement should become more conservative in their financial decisions.

Individuals have to plan through retirement, said Nadine Givens, Indianapolis Director of PNC Wealth Management. Retirees do not want to outlive their income – the financial industry advises to plan for a life expectancy of 95 years of age.

Largely, law firms have an employee base who better understands the complexity of 401(k) plans. Still, firms are proactive in both monitoring their plan offerings and educating their workers so when retirement comes, the attorneys and staff members can do what they want and not what their savings allows them to do.

Shifting attitudes

In compiling the list, BrightScope mined Form 5500s filed with the U.S. Department of Labor and audited financial statements of 401(k)s with 100 or more participants, according to Brooks Herman, head of research at the California company. It then analyzed things such as company generosity in matching contributions and plan administration fees to determine how quickly or how slowly participants in a particular 401(k) could meet their retirement goals.

The Top 25 are the plans that BrightScope’s methodology has indicated will get participants to retirement quicker.

Defined contribution plans put the onus on the participant. Historically the pension plans that were in vogue 50 or 60 years ago placed all the investment risk on the employer. The employer assumed the liability, and the worker got a periodic statement about their retirement benefits.

However, with 401(k) plans, participants have to take an active role. They decide how much income to defer into the plan and how that money is allocated among the options available.

As a group participating in 401(k)s, lawyers are distinctive, Herman said. They tend to be intelligent, well-compensated and typically save a tremendous amount for retirement. On their own, they may possess a lot of financial savvy or they work with financial advisers.

Bob Hicks, Indiana partner-in-charge at Taft, has noticed a change in attitudes toward 401(k)s that mirrors the larger shift among workers in all industries. His firm, then Sommer Barnard, introduced its 401(k) and profit sharing plans in the 1990s.

Taft came to Indiana when it merged with Sommer Barnard in 2008.

Years ago, contributions to 401(k)s, in general, were low because people were of the mindset that someone else would take care of them, Hicks explained. Today, employees understand the need to save for their own retirement, especially with the continued questions about the long-term stability of Social Security.

“It has been a sea change,” Hicks said, as workers have ceased to think about defined benefit plans like pensions and shifted their focus to 401(k)s.

Education

Hicks described his firm’s plan as generous but quickly noted the business is not being benevolent solely for altruistic reasons. Having a solid retirement savings plan available helps attract and retain talented attorneys and staff members.

“It’s a good business decision for your employees to have a plan to be able to retire,” he said.

Barnes & Thornburg has structured its retirement plan to make attorneys and staff members want to participate, Kobe said. The firm provides access to consultant services, primarily through meetings and webinars, to help employees understand and navigate the 401(k) options.

Taft also educates its employees. Written notices and seminars help the participants make informed decisions about their retirement savings. Hicks noted the firm works to strike the balance between helping its employees maneuver the 401(k) and pushing them into participating.

Education is vital, said PNC’s Givens, because today’s 401(k) plans are not your father’s plans. Earlier choices of where to allocate retirement funds were traditionally limited to stocks and bonds, but now the options have exploded to include commodities, emerging markets, real estate and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities.

The complexity of these plans makes determining the right asset allocation more arduous. Although many participants do not have the competency to understand how they should invest, law firms tend to do a better job of assisting their employees in gaining the necessary knowledge, Givens said.

In addition to giving the employees resources to handle their 401(k), Barnes & Thornburg also pays attention to the plan itself. The firm meets with an outside investment adviser quarterly to review the plan’s performance by looking at such aspects as the options in the plan and the associated fees. Two times a year, the committee meets with the plan administrator to go over what Kobe called the “nuts and bolts” of the plan, which includes whether account information is being given to the employees in a timely manner.

A challenge for businesses has been keeping employees participating in 401(k) plans, especially as the economy tanked. To benefit from the market’s rebound, workers have to have their money invested, Givens said. Otherwise they are sitting on the sidelines just watching.•

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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