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4 Rules to Follow When Writing a Notice of Resignation as a Lawyer

published February 21, 2023

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
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( 289 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
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Giving notice at any job can be a stressful and anxious experience. However, most companies expect employees to give at least two weeks notice before leaving. This is important so that employers have enough time to find a replacement and to provide you with a good reference.

When it comes to giving notice, it is important to have a plan. Employees should decide when and how to give notice in advance, and then be ready to execute that plan. A good practice is to compose a letter of resignation, which should be printed out and signed before it is delivered. It is also important to plan what to say in the meeting.

When it comes to giving notice, it is important to be professional, courteous and respectful. This will ensure that the conversation goes smoothly, and it also helps build goodwill with your employer. Employees should also be prepared for the interview. It is a good idea to write down questions that the employer might ask, and practice the answers in advance.

When it comes to the timing of giving notice, it is a good idea to avoid doing it on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons. Employees should also be sure to give the required timeframe of notice. Depending on the job and company, this could be two weeks, one month, or longer.

When giving notice, it is important to follow the correct procedures for handing in an official resignation. This typically means submitting a letter of resignation to the HR department, and it is also important to make sure that the notice is properly documented in your personnel file.

Giving notice of resignation can be a difficult experience, but it is important to do it properly. Employees should be prepared in advance with a plan and practice, and they should make sure to be professional, courteous and respectful. Notifying the employer in writing is also important, and following the correct procedures will ensure that the process goes smoothly. Employers should also remember to give ample notice, typically two weeks. Following these rules will help ensure proper professional conduct, and build goodwill with your employer, which could help later when around job references.
Questions Answered In This Article

How should I handle giving notice to my current employer when I am offered a new job?

Make sure that the offer you have received is firm before giving notice to your present employer. If necessary, provide references from your present firm, or explain why you cannot identify someone at your present firm who will act as a reference.

What kind of courtesy should I offer my coworkers when leaving a job?

It's important to say goodbye in person to partners, associates, staff personnel, and others with whom you have worked. This final action will be remembered for a long time and endear you to those around you. Additionally, be reasonable about any departing emails and refrain from publicizing any negative experiences you may have had with the firm.

What should I do if I don't get along with my current supervisor?

If you are employed in a sole-practitioner situation and do not get along with your supervisor, there is not much you can do to ease the dilemma. However, if you are employed in a large organization, it is crucial to cultivate potential references as part of your career journey.

How do I maintain relationships with former colleagues and employers?

Many firms consider their departed lawyers as alumni; leaving a job without burning bridges is possible. Consider arranging an exit interview to discretely inform the firm of any concerns or provide a general note expressing your appreciation for the time you worked there. Additionally, include your contact information if someone wants to reach out later.

What should I do if I have had negative experiences with a former employer?

If you have had a negative experience with your former employer, it is not wise to share those experiences with the firm. Instead, consider arranging an exit interview and discretely express your concerns. If possible, try to close off positively by wishing everyone well and expressing appreciation for the opportunity.

You have just landed a job, and you are experiencing the elation of finally achieving your goal to get the perfect position at an exciting firm. Suddenly, you feel the onset of anxiety upon realizing that you face new challenges, excitement and uncertainty. The one immediate challenge is that you still have to tell your present employer that you are leaving. You may feel guilty, deceitful and disloyal. You may feel like a spouse who cheats, like a trusted confidant who reveals secrets, like a dependable accountant who doctors the books, or like a faithful deacon who dips his hands into the Sunday donation basket. Enough already! You have been concentrating on getting the position you were seeking so much that you have postponed planning your exit. Get past the guilt and strategize as to whom, how and when you will give notice that you are leaving.
How to Gracefully Quit Your Current Employer for a New One

When on the verge of a life changing decision, it is easy to look forward and forget to tie up the details of the situation you are leaving. It is important, however, to take the time to wrap up your prior situation appropriately and professionally before moving on.

1. Whom to tell first?
I suggest that you prepare a short letter of resignation to deliver to the head of your practice area, and that should be delivered in person. You should then tell each and every attorney with whom, and for whom, you work. Remember that news travels fast. Make sure you have several hours to ''make the rounds,'' and try not to leave out any attorney who would be hurt to hear the news from anyone but you personally. You may have had a cordial and, perhaps, a very personal, yet professional, relationship with your fellow associates and partners. In that case, you should make sure to tell these people how they helped your career, that you will miss seeing them on a daily basis and that you plan to keep in touch.

If you have any question as to how to announce your departure, ask a senior lawyer, preferably a partner, how to best deal with your announcement. They will feel obliged to give you the appropriate advice that depends on the culture of the firm and your distinct circumstance so that you can proceed tactfully in making your exit from the law firm. Once you have told someone that you are leaving, the news will move like the speed of sound or, with the advent of email, light. You should then follow the established procedure at your firm and give notice that you are departing. In that regard, you must ascertain the length of time you will stay at the firm before you finally depart.

There are several factors to consider when giving notice. First and foremost, you should preserve the positive view that your current employer has of you. At a minimum, you should approach a senior associate or partner with whom you have worked with and have had a pleasant rapport, and cement your relationship and get a firm commitment from them that they will provide you with terrific references in the future. Tell them that you have enjoyed working with them, that you admire their ability, and that the reason you are leaving has nothing to do with them but rather it is because of your unique personal situation or some other informative, yet truthful, reason about the firm. They undoubtedly will be helpful and encouraging to you and, in most cases, will be honored to provide you with solid recommendations if the need ever arises.

On the contrary, you may have had a strained association and had dreamt about the day when you . . . Stop! Do not burn your bridges. The offer you have just received may be contingent upon you providing good references. Even if the offer has no conditions, don't forget that your past employers will act as your future references. An unfavorable or mediocre reference could be the reason an employer decides not to extend you an offer. Also, most partners at established law firms know their compatriots at other law firms. Even though it is illegal in some states to divulge more than your dates of employment and salary history, if your former employer is left with a bad taste in his or her mouth, unflattering information may likely be communicated about you through the grapevine. Even if you worked in the most awful of circumstances, resist the temptation to ''tell off'' your former partner. It could very well come back to hurt you.

As much as possible, avoid saying anything offensive or derogatory about the firm. People do not like to be reminded how awful or dead-end, whether or not accurate, the place had been. Do not forget that they are staying behind while you chart a fresh course for your career. Simply, reinforce your bond with your colleagues and move on.

2. How long should I endure the unemotional goodbyes?
The next step is to determine how long of a notice you should give. The operative word here is should and not want. With very few exceptions, the minimum amount of notice you should give is two weeks. If your practice group is very busy, and your leaving will jeopardize the proper and adequate representation of the clients you serve, you should give more than two weeks notice and explain to your future employer the circumstances that you find yourself under. Your future employer will, in most cases, understand your predicament because the employer can foresee itself in a similar situation. Plus, this is yet another chance for your future employer to see how conscientious and professional you are in representing your clients.

Only under extremely rare circumstances should you feel that you can give less than two weeks notice. In such exceptional situations, you can try to subtly suggest to your present employer your preference to leave with less than two weeks notice. For example, if you have not been given any assignments lately and have no or very little billable work, and the firm can readily have someone else take over the handling of the matters assigned to you, you may delicately persuade the firm that it makes business sense for you to leave with less than two weeks notice. If your intimation is snubbed or scoffed at, however, you must prepare to work the entire two weeks.

There are circumstances when your current employer may be more enthusiastic, and hopefully not ecstatic, for you to leave with less than two weeks notice. Let's say you are leaving your firm and have accepted an in-house attorney position, and in that capacity you may have authority to retain outside counsel. Most firms will likely send you off with catered lunch from Spago or Nobu Café, or at a minimum buy you an expensive lunch, and be more sympathetic to bidding you farewell with less than two weeks notice. Most people, however, leave a firm to accept a position with yet another firm. In such a case, you simply have no choice but to give, at a minimum, two weeks notice before you depart.

3. When should I give notice?
You should give notice as soon as you have a firm offer from your future employer, and you have accepted the offer. With some exception, you should never give notice if the any condition on the offer has not been met. The only exception is if the employer wants to check your references at your present firm. Most firms require, at a minimum, conflict and reference checks before the offer becomes firm, but providing references from your present firm is tricky. If you are certain that someone you have worked with at your present firm will provide your future employer with an excellent recommendation that they hire you, you can feel comfortable that the conditions on your offer will soon be satisfied and then you may confidently give notice of your impending departure.

On the other hand, if you are unable to name someone at your present firm who will act as a good reference, your situation is more complicated and is a matter for another discussion outside the scope of this article. But, in sum, you either have to be frank and explain to your future employer why you are unable to identify someone at your present firm to provide you with stellar recommendation, or hope that you are not asked for a reference from your present employer. Obviously, if you work for a sole-practitioner and do not get along with him, there isn't much you can do to ameliorate the dilemma. The situation is much different and easier if you are employed in a large organization. It is imperative that people cultivate potential references as they proceed with their careers.

4. Any last acts?
Make sure to say goodbye in person to partners, associates, staff personnel and others with whom you had worked with during your tenure at the firm. People recall good deeds, and your last act will be remembered for a long time. It does not cost anything. It may instead cause the partner to forget the time you failed to deliver the memorandum on time, and she will thereafter think of you as the outstanding lawyer that you are. It will solidify the alliances you have formed with other associates who may yet become your close allies once again in the future. It will endear you to those with whom you labored to get that brief filed two minutes before the court's doors closed. It is also just the most decent thing to do.

Many firms consider their departed lawyers as alumni. I believe that in our tight legal community, the idea that leaving a job doesn't mean burning a bridge is a good one. Remember that your former colleagues will most likely remain in your professional, and sometimes personal lives.

Departing emails are good, but should be used judiciously. Again, even if your experience at the firm was a negative one, there is no good reason to publicize your bad experiences among the firm. You may want, instead, to arrange an exit interview to discretely inform the firm of your concerns. Since you already have bid your farewell in person to those with whom you had worked, a general note saying you enjoyed working at the firm and that you wish everyone well is adequate. If you must, name just a few people that you would like to specifically thank. But this is dangerous, as those not included will feel slighted. Finally, include your forwarding information in case someone wants to contact you later. It is a nice gesture which tells everyone that you will continue to consider them as colleagues and, perhaps now, simply as friends.

Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

More about Harrison

About LawCrossing

LawCrossing has received tens of thousands of attorneys jobs and has been the leading legal job board in the United States for almost two decades. LawCrossing helps attorneys dramatically improve their careers by locating every legal job opening in the market. Unlike other job sites, LawCrossing consolidates every job in the legal market and posts jobs regardless of whether or not an employer is paying. LawCrossing takes your legal career seriously and understands the legal profession. For more information, please visit

published February 21, 2023

By CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 289 votes, average: 4.5 out of 5)
What do you think about this article? Rate it using the stars above and let us know what you think in the comments below.