terminating a lawyer

Ten Things: How to Fire Someone

I am sure that by the title alone you realize there will not be a lot of the usual jokes and funny comments in this edition of the blog.  That’s because there is simply nothing humorous about having to fire someone, probably among the most difficult tasks faced by any in-house lawyer who manages people.  After questions about how to show value, the most frequent question I get from readers is “how do I fire someone?”  Actually, it is usually phrased as “should I fire [someone]?”  My initial thought is that if you have gotten to the point where you, as a manager, are asking these questions, it is not really a matter of “if,” it is a matter of “when.”  But, if you want to advance in the legal department, and if you want to become general counsel, it is almost inevitable that at some point in your career you will have to fire someone.  Is it ever fun? No.  Is it stressful? Yes.  Is it ever easy? Usually not (unless someone does something so awful that immediate termination on the spot is the only appropriate response).  I have had these difficult conversations numerous times over the course of a long in-house career.  Fortunately, not many.  But, I remember each of them very well along with what went into coming to the decision and preparing for the conversation.  This edition of “Ten Things” will set out some of the things you need to know to properly fire someone in the legal department: