OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF THE STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA LAW PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND TECHNOLOGY SECTION
HOW TO SAY GOODBYE:
WHAT TO INCLUDE IN DEPARTING MCLE
EMPLOYEE CHECKLISTS PAGE 1
By Marcia Watson Wasserman
From the Chair
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.
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
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
Fact Finding on
F MCLEE review whether the position is necessary or
needs to be changed. For example, if the firm
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
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
MEMBERS! person’s responsibilities to another employee or
continued on page 7 and Technology
Our website can be found at www.calbar.ca.gov/lpmt — 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
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
STATE BAR OF CALIFORNIA LAW CONTINUED FROM PAGE 8
PRACTICE MANAGEMENT AND
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
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-
firstname.lastname@example.org). Visit www.
George Brandon, Los Angeles ee during his or her final weeks of employ- comprehensivemgmt.com 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,
Annette Ohanganian, Monterey Park
James F. Robinson, Hermosa Beach
Marcia Wasserman, Encino
JOIN US NOW
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