LegalJob recently talked with an AmLaw 100 associate who is in the process of switching to another big firm.  His ideas inspired this post.   Ideally, you want to leave the firm on good terms.  The legal community is small and there is no reason to burn bridges unnecessarily.  Six things to think about when leaving the firm:

  1. Provide plenty of notice, if possible.  Two to four weeks is probably the minimum but it may make sense to tell as soon as have accepted the offer (and terms) from the new firm.  This extra time will help with the transition planning for your projects and allow the firm to shift its resources as necessary.
  2. Be diligent in your transition planning.  Make sure that your current projects are covered and that you have communicated the status and any other relevant information that is not in the file to the folks who will take over.  Do not wait for the firm to initiate this process.  That may not happen. 
  3. Make yourself available and communicate your availability.  Many partners and others may not want to bring you in on an assignment knowing that you are a short-timer.  That means you may find yourself with nothing to do.  Make the most of your remaining time and offer to pitch in anywhere you can be helpful.  There must be something you can do.  No problem if folks do not take you up on your offer but at least you made an attempt to earn your last paycheck.
  4. Write an exit letter for the file.  Memories fade and people leave.  Document status and items in your head that would be helpful for people to know about your projects.
  5. Suggest an exit interview with boss.  The firm may not initiate this interview but it may be a great opportunity for the firm to benefit from your candid advice about what the firm does right and what the firm can do better.  Be constructive and diplomatic — you may end up back at this firm one day or working with one or more of the same attorneys.
  6. Send a thank you note to the firm (or at least the attorneys in your group).  Why not leave on a positive note.  Surely, there is something positive you can say about the firm or the people in your group.