Being held to your notice period

When you're resigning, how often do firms hold you to your full notice period (e.g. three months)? Conscious it may vary from case to case but I'm thinking of resignations where the firm is sad to see the person go and they have previously regarded the person as a good employee.

Very rarely indeed have I seen a firm waive the period.  I think only exception is when it really really suited them or the person is going to a client.  I expect they don't like to set a precedent. 

If someone is going to a client and the client asks for the firm to waive the notice period then there is a reasonable chance.

If someone is going to a competitor they're just expected to work their notice period unless there is some confidentiality issue.

What they said, it depends. If the firm’s happy they’re off then likely to cut short, if it’s to a competitor or they need to backfill the role then they may keep you. 

How’s your back?

Funny things backs.  They can be absolutely agony without a great deal to show by way of physical symptoms.

With PP lawyers there is always something discrete (e.g. part of a deal) that you can put them on during the notice period, so they are often made to hang around for the full time while the company recruits.   

Cutting people loose early makes more sense in non-PP settings when a replacement is identified and you don't need two people doing the same role.

Beast them to the bone right to the end then write off all their time . 

Do as little work as you want on your notice period. 

Only time I've ever got a notice period shortened was working in a non-legal role where I used the fact they'd told me I was shite to suggest that they probably didn't want me around screwing stuff up.

i asked when i left PP and was given a massive two fingers.  However, if you're going to a client or potential client, no harm in asking.  Make sure you go with a plan:  "these are my active matters, half of them will be ending by date X, handover will be best at such and such a time, that leaves me with 4 weeks twiddling my thumbs."

If you refuse to work your notice period what are they realistically going to do?

Unless you’re a junior you should be getting garden leave anyway

If you’re mediocre, you will probably have to work your notice period.

If you’re very good and a real threat moving to a competitor or awful and they’re glad to see the back of you, you’ll probably be put on garden leave. 

In the white coat trade they generally try to hold people to it because there is nobody to replace them. You tend to find some people in those circumstances becoming unwell. Bad back. Stress. Something like that. 

Before moving in-house, I was kept to most of my notice period. I thought they would be keen for me to leave, but they wanted the full 3 months, I have no idea why, as I was not hugely busy and, if I am honest, wasn't working at 100% effort.

On my last day, the managing partner was taking me out for "lunch" (beers), so told me to clear my desk well before my last day. My wife was pregnant at the time and, coincidently, she had a scan on the morning of my last day. I mentioned it to my boss. They had cooperated with every other appointment/scan and let me go without question, but on my last day, when I had no work to do, my boss made me use annual leave to attend the scan. The other partner in the team rang me 5 times during the scan to ask not urgent questions which he knew the answers to and were in my handover.

Really quite an unnecessarily bitter end to my time there. Needless to say I do not instruct that firm now I am in-house.

Working your notice is awesome. I have perfected the art of sounding sincere and interested, but suggesting that as i am leaving it would be better if they spoke to someone else. shouldnt be working more than 3 hours a day imo

My last notice period was mostly slipper-shod cruising that I mostly used to organise the logistics of carting my life across the world.

On my very last Friday (my last day was the following Thursday) I got asked if I would be available to work over the weekend for an urgent piece of work that *might* come in. The partner, who I don't think had experienced anybody pushing back on weekend work before, was utterly unable to understand why I was not interested in this last bit of a beasting.


He was a nice guy actually, just a bit of a maniac when it came to doing billable work.

Thanks for all the responses. I'm hoping the firm will be flexible as I'm not hoping to go immediately (have got a holiday planned about six weeks after I intend to resign so that would seem like an ideal time to go as I'll have to hand stuff over anyway then).

It seems odd that they'd keep someone super busy there against their will as the person's motivation/productivity will presumably fall off a cliff (especially if they are disgruntled after being denied a relatively reasonable request).

You'd be surprised at how much of a pussy most lawyers are in this respect. Working like mad right up to the last day so as not to burn bridges. I've seen more than a handful of people end up back at the firm they left (some through mergers, which must have been a nasty surprise).

I was held to my 3 month notice period, despite not being busy and having very little work to do. The firm wouldn’t release me early, despite telling me at the time of a merger that “nothing is set in stone”. 

London can be quite a small place. Recommend you don't get yourself signed off sick etc and refuse to work notice as people will remember and it will come back to haunt you.

Just wind down, don’t accept any new work, chill out, rock up at 11am every day and lap up 3 months’ pay for minimal work / no stress. 

“He was a nice guy actually, just a bit of a maniac when it came to doing billable work.”

From what you describe he was by definition not a nice guy. 

Yes, but a lot of people have that without also being affable band pleasant in every other way.

I am continually amazed how twitchy junior lawyers are to mugging off their notice.