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There are many ways to say that you’re sorry, but maybe there shouldn’t be so many ways to say goodbye. Every once in while, I get an e-mail sent around by a colleague who is moving on to other things. There is always the faint hope that the person is leaving big-law-firm life in New York to go and help the needy, and to use their intelligence and very expensive education to help better the world. Unfortunately, when I open the e-mails, it is just someone leaving this firm for another legal job somewhere (not that there isn’t a benefit to the world when they do so, it is just not as direct a betterment of the world as, say, working on a peace plan). I always wonder why they are leaving and what their impression of the firm was. The best e-mails leave you wondering, but there are a few “special” e-mails that seem to have been written after the person has been out to their farewell party. I hope that these people regret sending the e-mail, because I know that I regret learning as much as I did about the person by reading it. The farewell e-mail is not the forum to vent about your treatment at the hands of certain people at the firm. We all know that this is a hard job and that there are times that we wish we could speak our piece to the person who is seemingly creating the stress. The farewell e-mail is not the time or the place to say what you mean. If you want to address your issues before you leave, please make sure that you do so face to face. If you would rather not address the issue, then please don’t take a potshot on your way out the door. There have been instances of associates who have left their firm vowing to never return but who actually do end up returning. The partner that they thought was so bad and evil ended up being not as bad and evil in comparison to the partner at the other firm. Why would you, as the farewell e-mail draftee, want to preclude yourself from ever returning? Also, why not save yourself the embarrassment of running into the person at some future event. The legal profession is large, but it is not so large that you can count on never running into this person again. This is also not the place to vent about firm policy and procedures. See the above example of the associate who left. Please do not take this opportunity to speak words of wisdom or give advice as it occurs to you when you think about your leaving. The rest of the firm does not want to hear about your philosophy of life or even tips on how to succeed at the firm. You are leaving, remember. This is not the time to prove you are the wittiest person on the planet. Remember who your audience is and think about how they might perceive you when they read it. See the above example of the associate who left. Your credibility in future dealings with attorneys at your firm may be seriously compromised. Try not to be too abrupt. I received a five-word farewell e-mail the other day. It would have been polite for that person to at least try and say thank you or make it a little friendlier. Now this person’s e-mail may have been a perfect reflection of his personality. I wouldn’t know, because I never got a chance to meet him. I am not suggesting that your e-mail be completely foreign to you and your personality, but a businesslike e-mail with a friendly tone should not be such an affront to your individuality. On the other hand, don’t send an e-mail that personally thanks any individuals by name or is so effusive about your experiences at the firm or what you think that the future holds for you. Please leave those messages to personal e-mails that you direct to those people. The entire firm does not need to hear that Susan has been the best friend and co-worker that you have ever had the pleasure to work with. It will not do Susan’s reputation any good after you leave the firm and people will think that you are odd. It is appropriate to thank everyone, or alternatively your group, for the experience of working together and maybe wish everyone well in the future. When drafting a balanced farewell e-mail, try and remember back to the last four or five farewell e-mails that you have received and try and copy the standard language. Now is not the time to prove to the firm that you are the most creative person to have been in their employ. Don’t get so caught up in the emotion of leaving that you forget to give your contact information. There are actually really practical reasons to include that information in your e-mail. I presume that you have been telling your friends and family your contact information for your current firm. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was some way that your secretary could forward those people to you directly. It is true that the firm will have a way to get the information to you, but why put your Aunt Mary in such an uncomfortable position. Think of what you are trying to say in your message. Try not to burn too many bridges by using the firm- wide e-mail to further your supposed agenda. Why would you use this forum as anything other than a chance to get out your new contact information and to wish everyone well? As to the rest of it, keep them guessing. Alison McKinnell King is an associate at Kaye Scholer of New York. She can be reached at [email protected]

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