Legal administrators play a critical role in facilitating both the voluntary and involuntary departures of associates and staff. A well-organized departure checklist coordinating the administrative tasks ensures a smooth transition in both instances. However to mitigate the additional stress of terminating an employee due to economic factors or poor performance, it is also critical to be prepared for the emotional reaction. Having established termination guidelines and policies in place before you need them is helpful, but it is equally important to have a game plan for dealing with potential emotional outbursts.
Departing employees should be provided, in writing, with the following information.
Being associated with a particular Firm or organization can be such an important part of a person's life. Being laid off not only creates a tremendous sense of loss of structure and interruption of "normal" daily routines but also a sense of betrayal. The Firm or organization loses its family, caring atmosphere as the blame gets spread around and becomes anonymous, with nobody taking responsibility for the decision. The financial blow and the change in consumer status can be equally devastating. To help mitigate the emotional stress of being terminated, it is important to have a written Termination policy in place that covers:
Your Strategy: State the message clearly and succinctly. Resist the urge to fill the silence with more information. End with "Do you have any questions?" If the employee still says nothing, stand up (indicating the meeting is over) and say, "If you think of anything over the next couple of days, let me know."
Your Strategy: Do NOT engage in an argument. Let the employee vent, and simply say, "I am sorry you feel that way." If you believe the person may become violent, make sure Security is informed of the meeting place and time. You may also want to consider having a professionally trained outplacement counselor on hand to help manage the emotions.
Your Strategy: Stop the person quickly and firmly by stating that the decision is final.
It is never fun to deal with termination-no matter which side of the message you are on. And, while no one would have wished for such turbulent times in the legal field, many actually can benefit from it. Individuals forced to give some serious thought to their careers can be rejuvenated by the experience. Similarly, institutions can benefit from being forced to realign business objectives and control costs more efficiently. People often end up happier after a transition. The challenge is living through it!
Reprinted with Permission from Brady & Associates Career Planners, LLC.
Kathleen Brady has 20 years of experience delivering career development seminars and counseling attorneys on professional development issues and job search strategies. She is a recognized expert on topics including career planning for law students and experienced attorneys, networking strategies, interviewing techniques and recovering from a layoff as well as business management skills such as delegating, delivering feedback and effective mentoring. Brady has comprehensive industry knowledge. She started her career in the Placement Office at Columbia Law School and went on to serve as Assistant Dean of Career Services at Fordham University School of Law, National Director of Staff Recruitment and Development at Jackson Lewis and Manager of Associate Professional Development at Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, LLP. She is also a past president of the National Association for Law Placement and a founding member of the NALP Foundation for Research and Education. Brady is the author of two books, Navigating Detours on the Road to Success: A Lawyer's Guide to Career Management (Inkwater Press, 2005) and Jobs for Lawyers, Effective Techniques for Getting Hired in Today's Legal Marketplace (Impact Publications, 1996).
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