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Leave a law firm on good terms

Leaving well helps protect your reputation when launching a solo law practice

Moving from big law to independent law practice is an exciting time. Whatever your reason for leaving a big law firm, it is crucial to leave that job on good terms. The person you treat poorly on the way out may be somebody who could have an impact on your future business and career.

So, as you prepare to leave a firm and launch your independent law practice, consider these good, bad and ugly actions that could make or break you later:

The good

  • Give advanced notice. Most jobs use the two-week notice rule. However, if you can notify bosses three weeks or more in advance, it’s even better. Notice allows ample time to finish tasks and pass cases to other attorneys.
  • Transfer current clients and files to another attorney. Your clients require an attorney, so refer them to someone you rely and depend on. Transfer your files to your colleague with the information necessary to best serve that client. Tie up loose ends, and ensure the new attorney follows through on the referral.
  • Keep in touch with colleagues. Use e-mail, social media, the phone and in-person communication to maintain these professional connections. They will become part of your network that will help your new business to grow.

The bad

  • Stealing clients. While asking clients to join you at the new firm sounds harmless, it breaks a code of ethics. It may result in a conflict of interest, and it may violate any non-compete agreements you signed when you joined the firm.
  • Stealing files. Completed files are a result of your work, plus the work of paralegals, investigators, additional attorneys and/or staff members. That work is the property of your employer’s firm.
  • Slacking off after giving notice. Until you leave permanently, you are still an employee. Continue to represent clients, complete assignments and interact with co-workers. Do your best work.
  • Badmouthing the firm. Never say negative things about former employers. Negative comments said at job interviews and on social media make you look bad to your peers and prospective clients. Keep your comments respectful and professional.
  • Acting unprofessionally at a farewell party. For the person who receives one, drinking heavily at a farewell party leaves a bad impression in the company’s mind.

The ugly

While not common, there could be unintended side effects when you leave a bigger law firm. Be prepared for the following possibilities and have an action plan in mind for if they do occur:

  • The boss can fire you immediately after giving notice.
  • Conflicts of interest can occur due to cases, clients, and business connections.
  • Your former employer may not cover malpractice insurance when you leave.
  • The breakup could lead to court action.

A win-win situation for all parties is possible when you leave on good terms. Bad terms cost you clients, business relationships and possibly your license.

For more information on launching an independent law practice in Denver, contact us. We offer flexible office leases and co-working space in two central Denver locations.

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