Law Practice Tip #6: Quitting the Job with Class

What do you do when a great opportunity comes along and it’s time to leave that first job?

Walk carefully. Leaving that first job, and how you do it, can have a lasting impact on your career. The legal community is not so large that reputation cannot follow you.

Valerie Fontaine and Roberta Kass over at advise to plan ahead. Before giving notice, have your personal items cleaned up and out of the building in case your soon-to-be former-employer decides that two weeks notice is two weeks too much. Also, clean off your computer of any personal files. Don’t take anything that’s not yours, either; proprietary information remains with your employer.

Also, review your current firm’s policies regarding bonuses, unused vacation, sick days, holidays, continuation of health and other benefits, and any vested retirement or investment funds, beforehand, so you don’t take any action to jeopardize what is due to you. This is a good time to turn in any requests for unclaimed reimbursements, as well. After giving notice, meet with your firm’s benefits manager to arrange for COBRA, the calculation and transfer of any funds due you, and any other financial details.

Remember to advise clients of the change in relationship, and remember that they are the firms clients, first.

Other pieces of advice include:

  • Be constructive in the exit interview and don’t use it to rant or nitpick.
  • Turn in requests for unclaimed reimbursements before you resign, and review policies regarding bonuses and continuation of health care.
  • “Graciously accept” offers to go out for lunch or have drinks with colleagues, but don’t brag and don’t make the get-togethers into gripe sessions.
  • Write thank-you notes to colleagues who have contributed to your career, remember their birthdays, and, if appropriate, refer business to them.

Good luck!

(h/t to ABA Journal and


3 responses to “Law Practice Tip #6: Quitting the Job with Class

  1. Also a good idea to refresh your understanding of any restrictive covenant in your original contract, if any. Before moving to Charleston, I used to read civil filings for a living, and saw more than a few arise from folks who left a position and did not know their rights and restrictions.

    • Definitely a good idea. I know that many employers require non-competes, and that’s one battle i’ve seen several friends go through, if just because of ignorance.

  2. If you are changing your job in Ireland you are required by law to give your present employer notice of your decision to leave. The actual length of the notice you are required to give will depend on your contract of employment and on the minimum notice that you are required to give by law.

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