Career Advice for Legal Professionals: Quitting with Class (Part One)

I can still remember the mixed feelings I had when I was about to resign from my first legal job as a law firm associate early in my legal career. Sure, I was excited about my new position at another firm. But handing in my resignation at an organization that had hired me when I was fresh out of law school and had taught me so much also was somewhat bittersweet.

I'm sure many of you know exactly what I’m referring to. Whether you’ve just started looking for a new legal job or ready to give notice, it’s helpful to brush up on what to do -- and not to do -- when announcing your resignation. Here are some pointers for making an exit that’s memorable for all the right reasons:

Tell the boss first. No matter much you want to share your news with colleagues, always let your manager know first. Don’t catch your boss off-guard -- instead, schedule time to talk to him or her. As you advise your supervisor about your departure, also present a written resignation letter, one that’s brief and respectful in tone and includes appreciation for the experience in the legal profession that you’ve been given.

Be accommodating. Keep your excitement about your new legal job in check. Your resignation may come as an unpleasant surprise, one that needs to be backfilled quickly. Be sensitive to your managing attorney's reaction and be helpful as you work out details of your departure. Perhaps offer to draft a project transition plan or train your replacement if that person is already on staff.

Negotiate a resignation date. Giving two weeks’ notice is typical but you may consider staying longer to wrap up unfinished projects if you haven't settled on a start date with your new employer. Also, check if your supervisor wants to announce your resignation to the staff -- or if it's OK for you to notify your colleagues. And if you’re taking a position with a competing firm, be prepared that you may be asked to resign earlier than you initially planned. In all cases -- take care to delete any personal files or emails you may have on your office computer.

Want more pointers on how to resign from your legal job with class? Check back later this week for Part Two on this topic.