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by Vault Law Editors | February 07, 2011


Unemployed attorneys, the lack of legal-industry jobs and a drought of interviews for law students are front-and-center in the legal field right now, and that probably isn’t changing for a while. But what do you do if you have one of these coveted legal jobs, and you don’t want it? There are a lot of resources out there on interviewing, networking and trying to land jobs, but there isn’t a ton of advice on how to leave your job.

So in the spirit of this mushy month of love and cuddles, Vault Law will be featuring advice this week on how to ditch your legal job. Whether you already have a new gig, want to explore your options or just hate your job so much that you can’t handle being there another second, we’ve got the quitting goods for you.

Today’s focus is on preparing for the split, which is a lot like breaking up. Your impulses are screaming, “I’ve found something better and I’m kicking you to the curb,” or “If I have to hear you nag me on more time, I’m going to have a breakdown,” while your head is echoing one five-word, cop-out mantra, “It’s not you, it’s me.” You can’t just blurt out those words and be done with it, though—you’ve got to prepare for the questions, the crying and your clothes being thrown out the window and try to craft the best break-up speech you can.

Quitting isn’t that different. You’ve got to consider how to best approach the goodbye so that you appear professional and maintain your relationship and contacts with your employer. Below are some tips on how to get ready for the big split.

Be Certain: Make sure that you’re ready to leave your job. If you’ve already secured another position, then you’re set. But if you’re leaving to explore your options or because you hate your job, make sure you understand your career prospects and are financially secure. Speak with your family, a career coach, a financial planner and anyone else who may be able to help you shape your future goals.
Script It: Plan what you want to say ahead of time, focusing on three main points: 1. the good, 2. the reason and 3. the result. You should start your resignation by describing what you’ve enjoyed about your job, what you’ve learned from your position and any other positive  details worth mentioning. Follow the positives with the “but”: “But I’ve found another position,” “But I’ve decided to pursue a non-legal career,” “But I'm relocating,” etc. Then give your notice. Be concise and to-the-point. You should be respectful, but you don’t need to go on for an hour about how amazing the firm is and how sorry you are to leave. Plan your general points and go in knowing which messages you want to convey.
Be ready for questions: Just like you would for a job interview, prepare for potential questions that your employer might ask you so that you’re not caught off guard. Decide what information you’re comfortable sharing ahead of time.
Be discreet: Don’t yap to all of your colleagues that you’re planning on quitting before you actually give your notice unless you are 110% sure that you can trust them not to spread the word or discuss it around the workplace. The last thing you want is for word of your resignation plans to make it to the top before you do. Instead of blabbing to co-workers, talk to your family and non-work friends.
Tell your friends later: Your work friends may be hurt that you didn’t inform them of your plans to quit before-the-fact. But they should understand (if they're truly your friends) once you explain that you didn’t tell anyone and that you needed to make sure you informed the top before word got around.

As with everything in your career, you need to plan your moves and make sure you present yourself professionally. Just because you’re heading out the door doesn’t mean you can make a mess. Prepare yourself for your resignation.

Read More:
Kiss Your Legal Job Goodbye: VIP List
Kiss Your Legal Job Goodbye: Relax
Kiss Your Legal Job Goodbye: Be Responsible
Kiss Your Legal Job Goodbye: Maintain Connections



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