Collier Legal Search

Etiquette of Leaving a Law Firm

Are you planning on leaving your firm in the coming year? Here are etiquette of leaving a law firm. 

The era of spending an entire career at one law firm is mostly gone. In today’s volatile legal job market, associates, partners, and legal support staff regularly switch firms for a myriad of reasons. Whether it’s a lateral move, a promotion, or a career change, maintaining professionalism when you quit is critically important to your reputation and prospects. The following are some things to consider if you are leaving your current law firm without burning bridges or committing ethical violations:


Review the partnership agreement – Partners should carefully check their partnership agreement for any notice requirements, penalties or possible forfeitures. Time your notice and departure to minimize any penalties and accommodate needs.

Complete the conflicts check – Conflicts clearance often takes much longer than anticipated. Most job offers are contingent upon the completion of conflicts checks so wait until everything has been cleared or waived before you give notice to your current firm. You don’t want to end up in limbo between the firms!

Determine how much time you will give – The minimum notice for any professional is two weeks, however many attorneys give much more time. It is advisable to have everything you want to take with you in your possession before actually giving notice.


Keep it quiet – Do not discuss your move with coworkers, clients or support staff until you give formal notice to management.

Resign in Person – Always resign face-to-face and in private. Do not leave a voicemail, e-mail or text, unless there are extenuating circumstances. Friday afternoons have always been favored since all parties have the weekend to process the news and there is less time for the office rumor mill to get started. The first person you should inform is your immediate superior. After you have spoken with him/her, find out if there are others in management you need to speak with directly. Follow up with a letter of resignation.

Inform colleagues – After you have notified management, let your colleagues know about your impending move. Depending on your office size and culture, you can tell them directly, by email or any other communication. Refrain from airing any complaints.


After an attorney has decided to join a new law firm, he/she has an ethical obligation to inform current clients of the departure. However, it is entirely up to those clients to decide whether they will follow the attorney to the new firm or continue to be represented by attorneys at the current firm. To avoid any breach of ethics:

  • A notice should be limited to clients whose matters you are actively involved with at the time of the announcement.
  • You should not urge the client to sever its relationship with the firm but may indicate your willingness and ability to continue responsibility for the matters upon which you are currently working.
  • It must be made clear that the client has the ultimate right to decide who will complete or continue the matters.
  • Keep complete copies of communications to ensure a clear and accurate record in the event of any claim of impropriety.

Full-Service Legal Staffing You Can Depend On

Collier Legal Search is a full-service legal staffing company that specializes in placing well-credentialed partners, associates and legal professionals at every level in law firms and corporations. Our experience in the industry and a unique approach to building our candidate database consistently delivers results. We are committed to maximizing success for our clients and our candidates. If you are planning to leave your law firm this year, we would love the opportunity to work with you. Contact us at 832-239-5253.