What To Do When Employees Leave the Law Nest?

What happens when your paralegal, coordinator, case manager (or Star Employee) wants to go back to school to become a lawyer? What if you’re the employee in that same position now? You’ve trained your employees on the substantive law, procedures, form numbers, and even how to optimize the case management software you’re using! They have become one of your best assets. At some point, employees may feel a need for change to pursue a new endeavor. Having been on both sides of this scenario, I will highlight in today’s blog some important issues to consider to ensure your organization transitions smoothly, maintains a high level of service to clients, while potentially making the best return on investments.

FIVE THINGS EMPLOYERS SHOULD CONSIDER

1. What is the employee’s departure timeline? Are they leaving in a year or in 2 weeks? If they’ve shared with you their plans, and there is a period of time in which to stage a transition, by all means, take advantage of this time to discuss how to transition.

2. If your employee plays a critical role, will they help train their replacement? Or (better yet), can they prepare a “manual” of their job duties to assist in the transition?

3. What other areas of training can your employee impart to other staff members? Are they master-certified at the case management system? Do they have great relationships with certain clients? It’s important that a transition not only be in place for internal staff, but clients are also kept in the loop so as to not be taken by surprise.

 4. Would your employee want to return and work at your organization after being admitted as an attorney? If so, is it possible to have them continuing to work on a part-time schedule? Or as a law clerk during the summer? Or on specific writing projects?

5. If the employee has indicated they are willing to attend law-school part-time in order to continue working full or part time at your organization, how will employee compensation change, if at all? What about other health or fringe benefits? Or would you be willing to subsidize part of the tuition to entice them to return to your organization as an admitted attorney?

FIVE THINGS EMPLOYEES SHOULD CONSIDER

1. Tuition, at practically all law schools, is on the rise. In fact, the debt-load that students now carry post-matriculation crossed the $100 billion mark at the end of 2011, the largest in U.S. history. How will you finance your education? Will you borrow or work part time? The best thing you can do is to ask the attorneys in your office now (or family and friends) how they managed their debt-load, post-graduation. How long did it take them to pay off their loans? Or, are they still paying it off? How did having debt affect their career decisions? Their overall quality of life? You might think twice after you’ve received some thoughtful answers.

2. How will you prepare for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT)? Will you study on your own or take a preparatory class? How you study will affect whether you continue to work full-time, part-time or not at all.

3. You will need letters of recommendations from various individuals for your law school admissions applications. If you plan on asking your supervisor, manager, or boss for a letter of recommendation, you should be prepared to offer to draft the letter on their behalf, for their review. Some references will prefer to draft it themselves but the offer is always a nice, professional touch! For busy supervisors, this can save them a tremendous amount of time.

4. If you plan on practicing in the State of New York, beware! Starting 2013, all attorneys seeking admission to the New York State Bar will have to satisfy 50 hours of pro-bono work! (That’s unpaid work!) The exact legislation has yet to be drafted, so we’ll have to just wait and see… However, if this catches on in other states, it’s certainly something to be aware.

5. Is working in the field of immigration law something you want to pursue? If so, would it be at your current employer’s organization? You’ll want to have a discussion with your supervisor, manager, or boss about this if returning to the organization is in your career plans.

While employee and employer career goals may not always align, by maintaining open communication, departing employees can transition into returning attorneys. A positive transition can turn into a networking opportunity for both sides in the future. Some of my most respected and good friends today were former colleagues, bosses and supervisors! What about you?  What was your transition like?  Were you an employer or the employee?  Was it a positive experience or just plain scary?  Send me a comment!