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How to Resign Gracefully - and Leave On Good Terms

Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

Even with the excitement of a new legal position looming, it's important to remember that when telling your Manager, you are leaving, it’s wise to remain professional.

Maintaining professionalism will enable you to remain on good terms with your former employers as you never know, in the legal world, when you might meet them again.

You might have worked for the same law firm for many years – in which case, leaving is going to be emotional as you say farewell to colleagues with a shared history. Alternatively, you may have been unmotivated or felt that the role was just not the right fit for you, in which case you may be happy to walk out on your last day without a backward glance.

But leaving the door behind you fully open is essential to allow for future networking and your personal brand in the legal world.

So, keep your exit dignified and show you are a true professional, regardless of your motives for leaving.

Here are the ideal ways to make your exit and remain on good terms.

Your Resignation Letter

Your resignation letter should be short and polite. You do not need to justify your reasons for leaving your current law firm or go into lengthy explanations.

While you may wish to highlight things you are grateful for – skills you have learnt, help and advice you have received, and opportunities to boost your legal career that have been offered – avoid the temptation to criticise your colleagues, boss, partners or clients.


Tell Your Manager

Although you may want to tell close associates and friends about your new job straight away, the first person who should hear is your manager. So, although it's so tempting to mention it to just one person – remember, that’s how word gets around, and if your senior partner hears about it on the grapevine, you won’t leave them with a favourable impression. 

So, arrange a time to speak to your Manager and let them know the situation first. Face to face is ideal as it minimises any misunderstandings or miscommunication. Tell them of your decision to leave and have your resignation letter ready to hand to them.

They may ask you why you are leaving or where you are going to – so it’s wise to have a response planned.

Discuss Details

Once you have told your manager, you can agree with them how and when you will let colleagues know you are leaving. You may wish to inform them individually, or as a group, or have your manager tell them for you.

In any case, ensure you have your story for the reasons you are leaving, keeping it consistent and positive.

Plan Your Handover

Scheduling time to plan for a smooth transition shows you to be a true legal professional.

Think about your areas of responsibility - current caseloads, unfinished projects, urgent jobs and upcoming commitments, and information on your clients that your successor will need.

If possible, invest some time in training up your successor, or at least making formal handover notes, to ensure you minimise the impact on the firm when you leave.

Start Clearing Your Desk

Once colleagues are aware that you are leaving, you can start to clear your desk so that it’s ready for the next occupant.

Removing paperwork, filing and archiving, binning wastepaper and taking personal items such as photographs home will ensure your workplace is ready, clean and welcoming for the next person.

Stay Committed

It may be tempting to spend time planning what you will do in your upcoming new legal role, but you are still being paid to do your current job.

Remaining an active team player, working hard up to the last minute and completing casework where possible will be noted by colleagues and your employer and will ensure you leave on a positive note.

Exit Interview

If you are offered an exit interview one by your law firm, it’s always a good idea to have an exit interview. These usually take place between yourself and an HR manager and are aimed at establishing any way in which they can improve the firm or addressing issues of which they may be unaware.

While you can, at this point, bring to light any concerns you might have, keep your observations professional and your criticism constructive.

Taking these steps will not only provide closure on your previous role but will ensure you leave your law firm a well-respected and professional ex-colleague, with whom your former team and senior partners will be happy to network with and recommend in the future.

Next Steps

If you’re reading this article because you are looking for the next move in your legal career, call one of the Clayton Legal team on 01772 259 121 and let’s have a conversation to explore your options. With our help, your transition can be smoother and quicker.




About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers. 

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year, download our latest guide here.

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