How to Handle a Key Employee Leaving

How to Handle a Key Employee Leaving

Whether you own a massive law firm with dozens of staff members or one that only employs of handful of associates, an enormous void is created when a key employee decides to leave the company. Valued employees may give their notice for a number of reasons, from abandoning a work environment that isn’t a good fit for their personality or skill set to simply pursuing other opportunities that promise better career advancement. Regardless of the reason for their resignation, it’s important to know how to handle a key employee leaving so your law firm can continue to operate and experience success without significant interruption.

Keep Calm and Carry On

When a valued employee gives notice of their impending departure from your firm, it’s normal to experience a wide array of emotions ranging from disbelief and denial to anger and frustration. But before you begin to panic or react in a negative manner, take a moment to take a breath and remember that losing an employee is not the end of the world—no matter how important their work is to your law firm.

Provide a respond to your employee’s resignation in a timely manner, but be sure to take some time to collect your thoughts before reacting—whether it’s a few moments or a couple of hours. This ensures you won’t lash out at the employee with an overly emotional reaction. Remember that resigning from a professional possession is a huge decision and one your employee probably doesn’t take lightly, so be tactful in your response, and don’t say or do anything you’ll later regret when you’re responding to a letter of resignation.

Evaluate Your Options

While some employees resign from their position because they’ve been experiencing issues in the workplace they want to get away from—such as conflicts with coworkers or other personal issues that aren’t easily resolved—other who resign have merely found another employer who will provide them with an incentive to leave their current position in search of greener pastures.

When your key employee gives their notice, sit down with them and discuss the reasons behind their decision. Do they need to earn a higher salary in order to provide for themselves and/or their family? Are they looking for a position that offers more vacation days or earned time off? Occasionally it’s possible to convince an employee you can’t stand to lose to stick around if you can make staying with your firm worth their while in the long run. If you strongly feel that an individual is worth keeping on board, evaluate the reasons they’ve chosen to leave your company for another one, and find out what—if anything—you can reasonably do to retain them as an employee.

Consider Promotion Rather than Replacement

Although your initial reaction to a key employee’s resignation is most likely immediately running an ad in search of their replacement, there are other options to consider. Many employers overlook the fact that one—or several—other employees within the company also have valuable skill sets and aren’t being utilized to their full potential. Look around your office for individuals who are capable of doing much more than their current tasks; then approach them to see if they are interested in taking on some of the workload that was previously handled by the employee who has resigned. Just remember that it’s important not to make the mistake of assuming another employee wants to be given additional tasks—and it’s imperative to compensate someone who steps up to the plate and takes over additional responsibilities.

Communicate With Your Team

From the moment an employee sends an email or steps into your office to give their notice to the day they walk out the doors of your office for the very last time, you can count on there being a considerable amount of talk among your remaining employees—and much speculation as to why their coworker decided to call it quits. How you handle the next steps in the process is a huge reflection on you as an owner or manager or your company, and it will also set the tone for the remainder of your employee’s last few days or weeks at your office.

Once you’ve officially accepted their letter of resignation, clearly communicate that individual’s plans to leave the company to the rest of your staff as early in the process as possible. Keeping everyone in your office informed will not only prevent the rumor mills from churning, but it will also open up a forum for discussion so the employees who are sticking around can ask questions about how this key employee’s departure will ultimately affect their position and their future workload. Communication is key when it comes to making sure all of your employees feel like they’re an important part of the team and that they are not being kept from hearing about important information and decisions that affect your company as a whole.


Jared Pierce hung his own shingle right out of law school and has spent every minute since then discovering the joys and difficulties of chasing success. Anyone who has ever met Jared will tell you h

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