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Sweet! Planning the Exit Memo

Vivia Chen

February 1, 2012

© Nomad_Soul - Fotolia.comOh goody, I get to talk about one of my favorite topics: how to quit your job. It's a subject that makes everyone happy, because it gives people hope that they're not fated to die at their desk—at least not the desk they're currently occupying. It also gets the creative juices flowing—just dreaming about saying goodbye to those who have made your life hell is an exercise worth indulging in.

But before you get too carried away with your fantasies (remember, the lateral market is better, but not that good), you might want to review my post on how not to quit your job. A quick refresher: Don't spill your guts to that kindly HR lady during the exit interview, and certainly don't blast "Take This Job and Shove It" on your iPhone or the office PA as you depart.

So once you've broken the news (nicely) to the head of your department, what kind of exit e-mail should you send to the rest of the crew? Do you send a  bland, predictable one with the usual bromides ("It's been a privilege to work with such a great group of people at such a great firm. . . .")? Or do you craft an e-mail that's a bit more memorable?

Recently, The Wall Street Journal's Sue Shellenbarger covered some of the more memorable exit e-mails—and amazingly, two of them were fired off by former big-firm associates. 

At Alston & Bird, one associate unwittingly sent out a departure memo that looked like an obituary. He sent "everyone a black-and-white photo of himself, with only his name and start and quit dates written beneath," reports the WSJ. Alston partner John Stephenson told the WSJ that it looked like a "tombstone" and "caused a firestorm because people thought he had died."

And then there was this "satirical exit note" by Greg Evans, who left Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in 2004. In his departing memo, Evans wrote that he "would rather be dressed up like a piñata and beaten" than remain at the firm, according to the WSJ piece. His e-mail later went viral, "prompting hundreds of e-mails and voicemails, including a few job offers from other law firms." Despite the commotion, Evans told the WSJ that he'd do it all over again, and that penning that e-mail was "liberating."

Now that he's a solo practitioner in Mableton, Georgia, it's unlikely that his next exit memo will play out so publicly.

Readers, what are the most outrageous departing memos you've seen? How creative do you plan to be?

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Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at [email protected].



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There is art to leaving your law firm, which too many lawyers haven’t adequately mastered: http://kowalskiandassociatesblog.com/2012/01/16/there-are-fifty-ways-to-leave-your-law-firm/

A friend of mine just posted this one on FB. "For nearly as long as I've worked here, I've hoped that I might one day leave this company. I have been fortunate enough to work with some absolutely interchangable supervisors on a wide variety of seemingly identical projects - an invaluable lesson in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium in overcoming daily tedium."

I recall that, when Mr. Evans left Paul Hastings, his widely-disseminated departure memo concluded with the line, "May my burning bridges be seen for miles." [Or words to that effect.]

Vivia, you may also remember this.

I once worked at a large, profitable national law firm firm where an equity partner resigned from the partnership by going to lunch and leaving a note that he had resigned on his messy desk. He never returned, at least not as a lawyer at the firm, and probably never at all.

After a few days of being unavailable, his secretary was asked to search his desk. She found the note. That is how his partners and associates learned he had resigned.

The best exit line I ever heard was a friend's retirement speech: "Adios, mofos".

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: [email protected]

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