From time-to-time, an employee is going to leave your law firm. Sometimes, you may not even get two weeks’ notice of their departure. Other times, you may get that courtesy notice. The question is whether to accept the notice or not? This is an interesting question that law firms can often debate. Different law firms can ultimately come to different conclusions about what to do.
Practically speaking, the answer to this question is going to vary based on the circumstances. There is not simply a bright-line rule the most law firms can apply to every situation. Instead, you really have to apply a balancing test. Below are some considerations you probably want to keep in mind:
- How long has the employee worked for your law firm? The longer the employee has worked of your law firm, and proven themselves as being high character, the more apt you would be to take the two weeks’ notice. On the flip-end, the less time an employee has worked for you, and the less character they have exhibited, the less likely you would be to take the notice.
- Where is the employee going to work? If the employee is leaving to work for a business that is not a direct competitor, the more likely you might be to keep them for those two weeks. On the flip-end, if they are going to work for a direct competitor in the same area of law, you may think long and hard about taking the notice due to confidentiality concerns, the possibility that they try and bring others with them, the potential for negativity in the workplace, etc.
- What work items are on the agenda for this employee? If there are pressing matters on the agenda for this person that you believe they can finish up before they leave, the more likely you would be to keep them. On the flip-end, if there are no pressing matters on their agenda, and/or others would be similarly able to handle these matters, the less likely you would be to keep them for the two weeks.
- Has the employee announced their departure in a classy way? If they have, the more likely you would be to take their notice. On the flip-end, if the employee is leaving because of a set of grievances they have, and they are airing this un-diplomatically, the less likely you would be to keep them for the two weeks.
- What effect would it have on others if you took the notice? In some circumstances, other employees might appreciate that you let that employee stay for their remaining two weeks. It can allow people to say goodbyes, farewell, and thank them for their service. On the flip-end, other employees may not be positively affected by you taking the two weeks. Instead, over those final two weeks, the departing employee might cause more harm to team morale than good.
- Will this employee work hard in their final two weeks? If you are confident this employee will work hard over their final weeks and give their full attention to their job, the more likely you would be to keep them for the two weeks. On the flip-end, if the work ethic and quality were lacking before their resignation, you may have to assume that productivity and work quality could become even more problematic over the final two weeks.
- Will this employee say good things about your law firm over their final two weeks? In other words, if the employee will talk glowingly about their time with the firm over their final two weeks, you would likely be more apt to take the two weeks. On the opposite, if the employee is groveling and negative over their final two weeks, the less likely you ultimately may be to take their notice.
- Is the employee taking a job that is truly a step up for them? If the employee is truly leaving for an opportunity that is better for them (or arguably a step up), you cannot blame them for leaving. In this circumstance, you would be more likely to take the two weeks. On the other hand, if the employee is moving laterally someplace else, or even taking a job that is a likely step-down, you might think long and hard about taking the two weeks. Even if they do not publicly air grievances to you as the reason for their departure, you have to think that they have some, or else they wouldn’t be leaving for a lateral or step-down job.
If you do receive two weeks’ notice from an employee, there are no right or wrong answers. Every law firm and every situation is different.
At the same time, you should not automatically take the notice. When employees depart, they feel as if they are doing what is in their best interests. In the same vein, you have to do what is in the best interests of your law firm, the other employees, and the clients. Sometimes, you may simply thank them for their service and have them depart that day.
If you have any thoughts, feel free to share them below.