So Long, Partner: 5 Tips for Dealing with the Departure of a Member of Your Legal Team
5 Tips that revolve around 2 words: Roles and Responsibilities.
In a perfect world, you get plenty of advanced notice. Hand-offs are planned. Caseloads are balanced. A partner’s departure from your legal team is unfortunate, but it doesn’t create chaos.
We don’t live in a perfect world. Often, there’s little notice. Opportunities come quickly, and people have to act fast. Or, it’s an unplanned, abrupt termination. In either case, your best bet is proactive planning so you can compensate for these sudden absences. Follow these 5 tips.
1. Keep a company voicemail login information sheet
The confidential nature of client information means that much of it may be exchanged using the phone. You’ll want to make sure you have access to a departing partner’s voicemail to access the messages and their chronology.
2. Have your IT department clone their email
Back to that perfect world scenario. Malice and professionalism are mutually exclusive in the legal field—so it’s unlikely that it’s much of a concern. It’s more likely that a departing colleague accidentally deletes important email content with the intent of getting rid of clutter.
It’s in your firm’s best interests to decide which email messages are important and necessary, as you’ll be taking over for the person who’s moving on.
3. Ask them to list usernames and passwords for any external sites where case and workload information is stored
Your firm may already have policies in place that determine the allowable places where partners can keep digital storage. It also means your IT department should be able to access these files if necessary. Make sure, however, that your departing colleague shares any and all sources where they may have stored client- or case-related information.
This includes popular commercial sites, such as Dropbox. Don’t forget to ask them if they’ve stored any voice memos or notes on their mobile devices.
4. Ask them to or have your IT department delegate control of their docket calendar
There are discovery deadlines, depositions, closings, and all kinds of client meetings—and many have been on the schedule for months. They can’t be missed, so you’ll need to make sure they’re assigned to other partners.
5. Make delegated roles and responsibilities clear to those who assume them
Partners are busy, and assuming the caseload of a departing colleague only adds more tasks. It’s wise not to assume that someone should know the peripherals of what’s landing on their plate—especially if your firm decides to reassign responsibilities instead of entire cases.
You’ll also want to clarify what’s allowable or permissible with ongoing communications after this partner has left the firm. Most firms opt to continue those communications only if it’s vital, and they use the ex-partner’s personal contact information. Otherwise, there can be a conflict of interest if the new firm practices similar law.
Consider giving this responsibility to a senior office administrator, or to one of the firm’s partners. It’s something that should be handled firmly and with authority.
Someone leaving your firm shouldn’t be the cause of confusion and lost revenue. If your firm doesn’t experience a regular turnover of partners, you may not have a comprehensive procedure in place. When the time comes, it ends up being hit-and-miss, rather than a comfortable rollover.
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