Partner Departure Tip: Don’t Let Your Emotions Rule the Day

Perhaps the single biggest factor partners underestimate when transitioning their practice to a new firm, or starting a new practice, is the emotional impact of the move. Even those who consider themselves stoic and rational by nature are often caught off-guard by how highly emotional this transition can be, for both the departing partner and for those whom he or she is leaving behind. In fact, there are a whole host of emotions that may accompany any departure including excitement, relief, sadness, anger, elation, fear, betrayal and sometimes a bizarre combination of them all. However, emotions can be kryptonite to judgment. And clouded judgment often results in poor decision-making.

A departure can become treacherous territory to navigate when partners do not properly anticipate the emotional impact of their departure or fail to anticipate potential responses by their clients or members of the firm to their news. These emotional stresses can be heightened when partners are struggling to figure out the ethically correct things to do, are getting conflicting, and sometimes erroneous, messages from their firm about their partnership obligations, and are trying to ensure a smooth transition for the clients that choose to go with them or worry that clients will not come at all.

In addition, a career transition is a time to build bridges, not burn them. Making impulsive statements or indulging in a long-desired fantasy to tell that annoying colleague what you really think of her can have a dramatic impact on how your firm views your departure or might choose to react to the news. It is also something that you are likely to later regret.

While transitioning one’s practice can be an exciting time, it is also a time of great uncertainty and anxiety. Although few of us want to acknowledge the fact that we are susceptible to the fog of emotion, the key to navigating these emotions involves careful planning, thoughtful preparation and disciplined execution.

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