When it’s time to say goodbye, there’s a right way and a wrong way

Whether you’re newly qualified or at the peak of your legal career, it’s likely you will soon be seeking the next step up in your rise to the top. If your sights are set on making partner, exploring your options outside your current firm may not even have crossed your mind. However, if getting the nod looks more and more like a pipe-dream with each passing month, it might be time to look elsewhere. While jumping ship may seem like a risky move, staying put could be to the detriment of your personal development. If it’s time to say goodbye, the following tips should help to steer you through the do’s and don’ts of leaving your job.

Do let clients and colleagues know quickly

If your mind is made up, it’s imperative you inform your colleagues and clients as soon as you know the date of your exit to ensure they have as much notice as possible. From here, a plan can be established to ensure clients are looked after in your absence. As simple as it sounds, communication in larger firms can easily fall through the cracks and cause confusion for both staff and clients alike. Rather than leaving it until the last minute, take this opportunity to thank everyone you’ve worked with over the years.

Don’t quit before securing a new job

Finally making the decision to leave your law firm in search for new opportunities may be exhilarating, but don’t get ahead of yourself. The competition is fierce in the legal jobs market, so don’t assume you’ll be snapped up the minute you leave the building. Instead, dedicate your free time to finding a new role that suits your ambitions and career goals. Only once it’s set in stone should you make your plans known to your employer.

Do create a transition plan

As the countdown to your departure begins, try to facilitate the transition period by drafting a handover plan for your colleagues or the person replacing you in your role. You may not be required to train the new starter, but you can still help to make their lives easier by providing an outline of what you do, your daily routine and how you accomplish certain tasks. Tips for using certain tools or dealing with particular clients can also go a long way in preparing your firm for your exit.

Don’t leave any loose ends

With the prospect of a new employer on the horizon, it can be tempting to lay back and watch the clock. Not only will slacking off lower employee morale within your team and the office in general, it can easily result in a chaotic collection of loose ends. These tend to be the tasks on your To-Do list that are pushed aside daily to make room for reactive work – the ones you claim will “get done at some point.” If they aren’t completed in time, don’t expect your boss to give you a glowing reference.

Do request an exit interview

Whether your experience with the firm has been positive or abysmal, an exit interview will help your ex-employer gain a clearer understanding of your reasons for leaving. If you are not offered an exit interview, request one with HR. While you shouldn’t take this opportunity to rant on about every issue with the law firm, you should certainly voice your opinion where you believe there is room for improvement. Did you feel undervalued, or uncertain on your prospects with the firm? Were there enough opportunities for learning and development? Has your boss been particularly difficult to work with? The feedback you provide will serve to create change where needed in order to boost employee retention, so try to be as honest as possible.

Don’t burn your bridges

No matter how dissatisfied you are with the experience, you never know when you might need a reference. Storming out of the office may be empowering, but is it really worth tarnishing your reputation for? In the legal profession, relationships are key to growing your network and expanding your client-base, so the last thing you want is for ex-colleagues to be bad mouthing you to their contacts. If you are leaving to pastures new, remember to be courteous and diplomatic to every member of staff until your departure.