For some, the idea of retirement inspires the call of a deep plush couch. For others, it introduces the second act of the play, an opportunity for action, passion, challenge and success to all take center stage.
Virginia Aronson clearly falls into the latter camp. From piano lessons, cooking school and the eight-hour medical seminars she attends at a nearby hospital (“I’ve always been a frustrated doctor”), to collecting modern art, and, of course, the acclaimed magic act she performs with her husband, Simon, there is an abundance of second loves she’s returned to since she left Sidley in 2010.
“Frankly, the joy of my retirement is that I can enhance skill-sets and explore new and old areas of interest that I just couldn’t enjoy thoroughly when I was working long hours at the firm,” Ginny says. She also enjoys mentoring younger professional women, both at the firm and of the Chicago Network, a group of prominent women leaders.
She cites a subtle but important link between her former law practice and her current mindreading act with Simon. The couple began performing years ago to help pay for graduate studies and law school. Those early performances—which required Ginny to both address large audiences and think on her feet—bolstered her public-speaking skills. They gave her confidence in herself, not only as a performer, but ultimately, as a lawyer.
The act also gave her leverage in job interviews. “Interviewers immediately noted the reference to ‘mindreading’ on my résumé and the conversation took off from there. No one ever considered asking me about the contents of my law review article!”
Self confidence proved essential, particularly when she started practicing law, as there were only a handful of women lawyers in the field at that time. She says she also benefitted greatly from mentors within the real estate group, as well as from the mentorship of other senior lawyers in the Chicago office, including Newt Minow and Bruce Bernstein. “They created opportunities for me and supported me early on in my career.”
Ginny emphasizes the importance of one-on-one interaction—how it facilitates communication and fosters loyalty. The digital age has led to mostly virtual conversations intermediated by software and screens, but Ginny recalls how she spent a lot of time with her clients in-person, many of whom she ultimately befriended. As a gourmet cook, she’d throw dinner parties at her home and invite them. As an avid ballroom dancer, she’d offer clients dance lessons. “And when they’d find out about the mindreading act, they were fascinated. Being a good, creative lawyer is critical, but being interesting and personable face-to-face adds another level to the relationship.”
Since she retired, Ginny and Simon have moved the mindreading act, “It’s the Thought that Counts,” to the fore. They’ve presented their 45-minute show across the United States, and even abroad, for corporate events, magic conventions, charities, weddings and parties. The couple has performed at Sidley events on several occasions, including the Women in Leadership event in Chicago for women clients of the firm.
“I never expected to be a cover girl,” Ginny says with a smile, but recently, GENII magazine, the largest magic publication in the world, featured the Aronsons in a 16-page cover article. “Our act is very convincing,” she says. “We claim no psychic powers but some people do come away thinking we really can read minds. We get fantastic reactions from the audience, which is very rewarding.”
So, how do they do it? On the couple’s website, dedicated to the act, Ginny explains, “It’s a blend of psychology, body language, magical skills, and the natural powers we all have—and over 45 years of training.”
Ginny’s full schedule inspires envious friends to ask how she keeps so busy in retirement. “So many of them are nervous about how they will fill their time in retirement, so I tell them, that’s not anything to worry about,” she says. “There are tons of brand-new things to learn, and old skills to explore and develop. My real worry is how to possibly find enough time to do them all.”
Published February 2016 - We share with sadness that Simon Aronson, beloved husband of Ginny Aronson, passed away on December 10, 2019. He was the friend of many at Sidley and will be sorely missed.
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