Navigating Your Notice: 5 Top Tips
- October 11, 2022
Congratulations – you’ve landed a new legal role, and after a busy period of applications, interviews, and meeting your new employer, you are no doubt looking to the future and the next steps in your career.
But even with the excitement of a new legal position looming, more often than not, there is still a notice period to consider with your current firm. The average notice period for legal professionals in our experience tends to be around 3 months, and it is highly likely that there will be a number of objectives to deliver before you set off for pastures new.
Here we offer our top 5 tips on how to navigate this ‘halfway house’ between your current role, and your new one to ensure you leave on good terms as well as feel fully prepared for your next challenge.
1. Be prepared for conversations around negotiation
Whatever the reason or reasons for leaving your current firm, it is always worth having a preliminary conversation before you start looking for new opportunities, to see if those initial reasons may be overcome. If, however that conversation didn’t take place, you should nevertheless consider what you would do should a counteroffer be on the table once you make your intention to resign clear.
In the current market, where demand for legal professionals is outstripping supply, this is exceptionally common, so you need to at least be prepared for such a scenario and ask yourself, would you actually accept a counteroffer? The answer to that lies in ultimately revisiting the reasons you wish to leave in the first place.
Counteroffers take many forms including increased pay, a promotion, enhanced benefits, or a combination of all of those, and there is no doubt that it can feel flattering to be in that position. However, research suggests that 80% of people who accept a counteroffer tend to leave within 6-12 months of accepting. Is it likely you’ll also be part of that statistic?
Assuming you’re still set on moving on, resigning gracefully is key – ensuring you cover all bases with and address these often-uncomfortable initial conversations – and ultimately remain professional, and on good terms as you prepare to exit the business.
2. Tie up all loose ends
Whilst it may be an easy option to go into cruise control once you have formally resigned, it will also destroy any goodwill and reputation you have no doubt worked hard to build on during your tenure with your current employer.
Making sure you remain committed to fulfilling your obligations and deliverables is key – not least because it means you aren’t leaving your colleagues ‘high and dry’ and left to pick up the pieces.
Generally speaking, there is never a ‘good’ time to leave a company, in that there will almost always be projects still ongoing, case loads still being actively managed, and future meetings in the diary.
Therefore, it is a good idea to:
- Confirm expected deliverables (and revised deadlines) with your current manager
- Ask who will be responsible for taking on your various tasks, caseloads, projects, and expectations around a formal handover
Practically speaking, 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.
3. Give a robust handover
Scheduling time to plan for a smooth transition further demonstrates that you are a true professional and not someone who leaves a law firm or a colleague in the lurch, or projects unfinished. Think about your specific areas of responsibility – current caseloads, unfinished assignments, urgent jobs and upcoming commitments, as well as information on your clients that your successor or wider team will need.
Even if projects or caseloads are likely to be ongoing, giving detailed instructions on where things are up to will be invaluable to your successor – especially if that individual is new to the business. Depending on your role and responsibilities, this may include
- A directory of key contact details
- Process documentation – ‘how to’ guides, or more detailed process maps
- Detailed notes on specific cases
- Duties detailed by frequency – daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly etc
- Project documentation including
If your firm decides to advertise your role and bring in a replacement as it were, it may be that you meet this individual to handover for a period in person. Going the extra mile here will leave a lasting impression, especially if you take on some of the responsibility for training and helping that person settle in quickly. Mitigating any disruption, especially where clients of the firm are concerned, is paramount and if you are able to ensure the handover is as smooth as it can be, you will certainly leave with a reputation for professionalism and hard work intact.
4. Keep connected
With an exciting new role to look forward to, you’ll no doubt want to tell close colleagues and friends about your new opportunity, and it is likely that news of your intention to leave will be communicated more widely around the business.
That being the case you will be asked both why you are leaving and where you are going to – so it’s wise to have a response planned. The temptation to tell people how amazing the new opportunity is, or how you’ll be working for a ‘better’ employer or company will undoubtedly be there, but tread carefully. Keep the message positive, but keep in mind the colleagues (and long-term legal network) that you will be leaving behind.
Your professional reputation will follow you out of the door on your final day, and if you are continuing to practice in the same sector, work for a competitor, or even work in the same region, chances are your paths will cross again at a networking or social event. It’s therefore imperative that you don’t burn any bridges as you exit.
Rather, use this opportunity to preserve your professional network. Building and maintaining relationships with co-workers right up until the point you leave (and then thereafter) will pay dividends – so use this time to connect on social platforms, ask for endorsements and recommendations, and share new contact details.
5. Start onboarding early
As seasoned legal recruiters, we always press the point of the importance of maintaining contact with your prospective employer as you work your notice period. This applies to both parties in the equation, and hopefully you will already be in continual dialogue with your new manager, the HR team, or even the wider team you will soon be a part of.
Regardless, it is good practice to consider the following steps ahead of day one:
- Follow your new employer’s social media accounts- helping you keep up to date with any news as well as get a feel for the kind of messages and communication they broadcast.
- Connect with your new team members on LinkedIn- even better, message them with a short message saying how much you are looking forward to joining.
- Attend any events organised by your new employer- your enthusiasm to get involved ahead of you starting in your new position will be duly noted and help to cement relationships from the outset
- Confirm and check your logistics- travel routes, train timetables, parking arrangements all need to be reviewed ahead of your start date if you are traveling to a physical office. If however your new role involves you working from home, it’s still a good idea to check your WIFI connection for the inevitable Teams or Zoom meetings, and make sure you have a suitable working space if you haven’t already.
- Be proactive- ask if there is any training material, staff handbooks or similar that you can read ahead of day one. There may be specific paperwork you need to complete perhaps. Getting ahead of the game shows you are committed to the new role, and helps to free up the first week from some of the administrative tasks.
Granted, you are also physically working your notice period (and busy tying up those loose ends) meaning time may be at a premium, but any effort you put in during this period means you can hit the ground running and will undoubtedly start to impact your new working relationships even before you’ve set foot through the door.
Handing your notice in can often be a bittersweet process. On the one hand, you will no doubt be looking forward to starting with your new employer, yet on the other, you still have legal obligations to fill as well as the emotional impact of saying goodbye to colleagues and friends.
Leaving a lasting (good) impression is vital and taking the steps above to demonstrate commitment to the very end won’t go unnoticed and will likely impact your personal reputation as you take these next steps in your legal career.
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 3,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers – and have helped to guide many legal professionals through the offer process, through their notice period, and beyond as they start their new career.
If you are considering your options at the moment, we can help to navigate the market and present realistic options. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.