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 WHAT TO INCLUDE IN DEPARTING                                                                                   MCLE
                                                                                                          Departing Employees
 EMPLOYEE CHECKLISTS                                                                                           PAGE 1
 By Marcia Watson Wasserman
                                                                                                             From the Chair
                                                                                                                PAGE 2
                         When an employee decides to leave your law firm, you should have a
                         checklist that covers everything you need to accomplish to insure the
                         employee’s smooth departure. The more organized you are in planning               Attracting the Best
                         for the departure the more productive the experience will be for every-                Lawyers
                         one involved. The checklist should include an exit interview and each of               PAGE 4
                         the items discussed below.
                                                                                                              MCLE Quiz
                         Find Out Why The Employee Is Leaving. If possible, ascertain what
                         the firm could have done to retain the employee. In addition, discuss                 PAGE 9
                         how much notice the employee plans to give and gain a commitment to
                         work productively during the transition period. Although two weeks’                 Closing a Law
  Marcia Watson          notice is the accepted standard, for lawyers or the firm’s legal adminis-              Practice
   Wasserman             trator one month’s notice might be more appropriate.                                  PAGE 10
     MCLE                Exit Interview. Exit interviews can be very useful because they present
     CREDIT              an opportunity to obtain candid information about working conditions in
                         your law firm. The managing partner, legal administrator, or human                  Profession to
   After reading this    resources manager can meet with the employee and conduct the exit                     Business
     article, you can    interview, or a written survey form could be used before or immediately               PAGE 13
    earn MCLE credit
                         after the employee’s departure. Whichever method is selected, the exit
     by completing
                         interview should cover the areas listed in the sidebar on page 7.                  Best Practices for
   the test on page 9
                                               Review the Job Description and Plan for
                                               Replacement. When an employee leaves the                         PAGE 15

     FREE                                      firm, it is a good time to evaluate the position to
                                               determine whether the job description is current
                                               or needs updating. It is also an opportunity to
                                                                                                             Book Review:
                                                                                                            Fact Finding on

   F MCLEE                                     review whether the position is necessary or
                                               needs to be changed. For example, if the firm
                                                                                                              the Internet
                                                                                                               PAGE 18

                                               has recently grown and its office manager is
      FOR                                      leaving, this might be the time to upgrade that
                                               position to legal administrator. If, on the other
                                                                                                              Our Mission:

   F LPMTE                                     hand, a legal secretary has given notice and you
                                               want to improve your attorney/secretary ratios,
                                               consideration should be given to allocating that
                                                                                                             To Improve the
                                                                                                              Quality of Law

                                                                                                            Practice Through
   MEMBERS!                                    person’s responsibilities to another employee or
                                                                                                          Effective Management
                                                                             continued on page 7             and Technology

 Our website can be found at — to register for MEMBERS ONLY section see page 12.
 the bottom line         volume 26 , no. 5       october 2005
departing employee checklists                                                       continued from page 1

Notify the Other Employees. Word of an impending
departure spreads quickly in organizations. The other           EXIT INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
employees should be notified as soon as possible in writ-
                                                                1. Why are you leaving the firm?
ing, or the news should be shared at a staff meeting. The
departing employee should be involved in deciding how           2. Tell us about your new job/firm.
the rest of the firm will be told. Current employees are        3. How would you describe the working conditions at our firm?
often excellent referral sources for future employees
                                                                4. What did you enjoy most about working at the firm?
when there are openings, so the earlier the announce-
ment is made, the better. In fact, many law firms give          5. What did you enjoy least about working at the firm?
substantial referral bonuses to their employees for sug-        6. Tell us about the new position you are taking and what it offers that
gesting friends and colleagues for open positions, pro-             your current position did not offer.
vided that they are ultimately hired and stay with the          7. Do you have any suggestions for improvement at the firm with respect
firm for at least six months.                                       to your position?
                                                                8. Do you have any other suggestions for improvement at the firm?
Transitioning a Departing Employee. If a replacement
                                                                9. What things should the firm commence (or stop) doing?
is found before the employee leaves, he or she should be
involved in training the new employee. If no one has yet        10. What could the firm have done to help you become more productive?
been hired, consider having the employee train existing         11. If a lawyer: How was your relationship with the attorney(s) who
employees to temporarily assume critical job responsi-               supervised you? What could the firm have done to improve those
bilities. If the departing employee is an attorney, he or            relationships?
she should prepare status memoranda for all outstanding         12. If a non-lawyer: How was your relationship with your supervisor(s)?
matters before leaving the firm. In addition, a plan                 What could the firm have done to improve those relationships?
should be devised and executed for informing clients
                                                                13. To what extent did your job let you use your skills and abilities to do
with whom the attorney has had direct contact about the             the things you do best?
departure, and how and to whom their matter(s) will be
                                                                14. Did you receive the training, tools and resources necessary to do
                                                                    your job effectively? If not, what should the firm do differently in
                                                                    the future?
Final Paycheck. California law requires that an
                                                                15. Do you feel your work was appreciated? Yes or no; and why?
employee who voluntarily quits (and who gives more
than three calendar days notice) must be paid on the            16. To what extent did people expect too much from you on the job?
employee’s last day of work. (The final paycheck must           17. Do you think the compensation you received is competitive with what
also be given to an employee who is involuntarily termi-            other law firms are paying for the same or similar positions?
nated by the firm on the employee’s last day of work.)          18. Do you feel the firm’s employee benefits met your needs? Yes or no;
The paycheck cannot be processed and held until the                 and why?
next regular payday. If the employee voluntarily quits,
                                                                19. Would you recommend the firm as a good place to work? Please
but gives less than three calendar day’s notice, the                explain.
employee must be paid no later than 72 hours after giv-
                                                                20. Are you aware of any illegal, inappropriate, unsafe or unethical
ing notice. Any overtime for non-exempt employees
                                                                    conditions or practices concerning your employment at the firm?
that is earned and due must be paid in the final pay-               If so, please explain.
check. Further, any accrued and unused vacation and
                                                                21. Other comments.
personal time must be paid in the final paycheck as well.
However, expense reimbursement to terminated employ-
ees can be paid at the same time as reimbursements to
active employees (because they are not subject to statu-
tory final paycheck deadlines).
                                     continued on page 8

MCLE            After reading this article, you can earn MCLE
CREDIT          credit by completing the test on page 9
departing employee checklists                                          continued from page 7

         If a final paycheck is not issued in a timely manner,         provides evidence to future employers of the employee’s
       the employer is statutorily liable to the employee for          prior health coverage.
       one day’s wages for each day the check is late, up to a
       maximum of 30 days.                                             Pension Plan. When an employee terminates, you
                                                                       should notify the administrator of your defined benefit
       Employee Loans. If a terminating employee has, by               and/or defined contribution plan of the employee’s ter-
       written agreement, authorized deductions from wages             mination date. The options your terminating employee
       for a loan to the employee, the firm may deduct the reg-        may have with respect to continuing with the plan,
       ular amount normally due from the final paycheck.               cashing out, or rolling over their account balance to
       However, the outstanding balance of the obligation may          another account will depend on the type of plan(s) your
       not be deducted by the firm without a separate written          firm has.
       agreement executed at the time of the final paycheck
       and signed by the employee.                                     Timesheets. If the departing employee is an attorney or
                                                                       paralegal, remember to have them bring their time
       Health Insurance Conversion Options. If your firm               sheets current and enter them into the firm’s computer
       provides group health care coverage (including medical,         system before they leave.
       dental and/or vision care) to your employees, and you
       have 20 or more employees, you need to extend federal           Professional Liability Insurance. You should also
       COBRA rights to continued benefits under the plan to            remember to notify your firm’s professional liability
       all qualified beneficiaries. If you have two to 19              insurance carrier of the departure date of any attorneys
       employees, you are required to offer Cal-COBRA rights           who terminate employment with the firm.
       for continued benefits under the plan to all qualified
       beneficiaries. Qualified beneficiaries include employ-          Access to Computers and Voicemail Systems. The
       ees and the dependents of employees who have been               day that the employee departs the firm, his or her per-
       terminated.                                                     sonal passwords should be deleted from the computer
         The regulations concerning COBRA and Cal-COBRA                and voicemail systems, and the employee should other-
       are rather complicated and any procedural questions             wise be denied access to the firm’s electronic media. In
       should be directed to your insurance carrier(s). For pur-       addition, if the employee is listed on the firm’s website,
       poses of terminating employees, the following is rele-          the listing should be removed.
       vant: For those employers with two to 19 employees,
       you are required to notify your insurance carrier(s) in         Equipment and Supplies. On the departing employee’s
       writing of the qualifying event within 31 days of the           last day, remember to collect and/or cancel:
       employee’s termination. They will in turn contact your
       employee pursuant to Cal-COBRA. If you have 20 or                  • Handheld dictation equipment, cell phones, note-
       more employees, and self-administer COBRA, you are                   book computers, and PDA’s.
       required to provide the terminating employee and his or            • Parking, elevator and suite access cards.
       her qualified beneficiaries with a COBRA Continuation              • Office, suite, desk and file cabinet keys.
       Coverage Election Notice within 44 days of a qualifying            • Firm credit cards, business cards and telephone
       event. This notice should be sent to the employee and                calling cards.
       his or her qualified beneficiaries by certified mail with a
       return receipt to provide proof that you have given             When it is finally time to say goodbye, be consistent in
       notice in a timely fashion.                                     how you handle the employee’s departure, taking into
         You are also required to provide terminating employ-          account the employee’s length of service and position
       ees and their qualified beneficiaries who have been cov-        with the firm. Remaining employees should be allowed
       ered under the firm’s health insurance plan with a              to share their feelings to ease the transition. If a farewell
       Certificate of Group Health Plan Coverage. This                                                      continued on page 20

                                                             After reading this article, you can earn MCLE           MCLE
                                                             credit by completing the test on page 9                 CREDIT
     OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE                     departing employee checklists
                                                     party is generally given to similarly situated
     EXECUTIVE                                       employees, then hold a farewell party. It is                Marcia Watson Wasserman is President of
     COMMITTEE                                                                                                   Comprehensive Management Solutions, Inc.,
     Andrew N. Elowitt, Chair, Los Angeles           preferable to maintain the departing employ-
                                                                                                                 which provides human resources and law prac-
     Robert Fortunato, Vice-Chair,                   ee’s goodwill. As a firm “alumni,” he or she                tice management consulting to lawyers and law
      Hermosa Beach
     Lawrence R. Meyer, Secretary,                   may be in a position to refer potential clients             firms. She is a Special Advisor to the Executive
      San Bernardino                                                                                             Committee of the Law Practice Management and
     Dana Simmons, Treasurer, Pleasant Hill
                                                     or employees to the firm. He or she may
     Edward Poll, Past Chair, Venice                 even become a client one day. If you main-                  Technology Section. Marcia welcomes your
                                                                                                                 phone calls (818-885-9080) or e-mails (mwasser
     MEMBERS                                         tain a positive relationship with the employ-
                                                                                                        Visit www.
     George Brandon, Los Angeles                     ee during his or her final weeks of employ-        for more information.
     Henry A. Dahut, Studio City
     Peter H. Loewy, Santa Clara                     ment, you will likely have an alumnus who
     Rodger L. Martin, Visalia                       is a good will ambassador for your law firm
     Nathaniel L. Nicoli, San Francisco
     Neil Quateman, Los Angeles                      in the future.
     Yvonne Marsell Renfrew, Los Angeles
     Timothy J. Stanley, Palo Alto
     Michael John Tonsing, San Francisco
     Kathleen R. Winckler-Pruitt, Glendale

     Andrew J. Beechko, Lake Forest
     Richard P. Carlton, San Francisco
     Peter N. Ching, Lake Forest
     Irwin Karp, Sacramento
     Carole A. Levitt, Culver City
     Timothy W. Lohse, East Palo Alto
     Alexander H. Lubarsky, San Mateo
                                                            CALIFORNIA LAW PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGY SECTION INVITES YOU TO
     Browning Endicott Marean III,
       San Diego
     Annette Ohanganian, Monterey Park
     James F. Robinson, Hermosa Beach
     Marcia Wasserman, Encino
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