If you’re ready (for whatever reason), here’s how to inform lawyers that you’re leaving the firm. And this advice holds true even if you’ve only been at the firm for a short while.
But it’s especially helpful and important if you’re leaving a firm where you established strong connections and relationships.
The process can feel confusing if you’ve been working with a lot of folks virtually. You may need to give notice via Zoom instead of in person, but here’s the process, no matter how you give notice.
Beyond Merely Giving Notice
Leaving a firm isn’t just about handing in a notice. It’s also about maintaining professional rapport, ensuring smooth transitions, and setting oneself up for future opportunities. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s a good approach I recommend based on my personal experience.
Speak first to Your Most Direct Supervisor
Begin by talking to the person you interact with most frequently—one on one. Be honest and explain your reasons for wanting to leave. Given your close professional interaction, they deserve to know firsthand, and they might also provide guidance on how to proceed. It’s crucial to establish this open communication to ensure no bridges are burnt.
Speak Next to the Section Head
If your immediate work associate doesn’t provide a clear next step, approach the section or practice group head. Even if you don’t work with them often, they play a pivotal role in the firm’s operations and should be informed of significant personnel changes.
Professional Development Considerations
While it might feel less intuitive, don’t disregard the potential guidance or advice a mentor can provide. They might not be the right first contact for your decision to leave, but they can offer valuable insights about the process and potentially introduce you to the right people.
Ethical Considerations when leaving a firm
In many cases, it will be advisable to determine how to handle notifying clients of your departure. Make sure to check your state’s professional conduct rules and past decisions. Get ethics advice from an expert, if necessary. Also, your firm may have written policies you need to follow.
Pleasant Surprises May Await
To my surprise, when I left my big firm to start a solo practice, the overwhelming sentiment I encountered was understanding and support. Most colleagues genuinely wished me the best, and some even indicated they envied my courage to make a change.
Remember, the legal community is tightly-knit, and relationships are paramount. You might find that down the line, connections from your old firm will send business your way.
So, it’s important to leave on the best terms possible, showing respect, gratitude, and professionalism every step of the way.
And if You’re Starting A New Law Firm
Check out this blog post with a complete overview of things to consider when starting your own firm.
You might also want to listen to this podcast episode I recorded.