In case you are new to the blog, a little context might help with this post. I am a fourth year big law associate. My relationship with the firm started as a summer associate in 2008 and continued with a second summer associate gig in 2009. I started full-time in San Diego. Since that time, the firm relocated me to LA, sent me on a secondment in Orange County, relocated me to Tokyo, and then sent me on secondment in Tokyo. I've viewed all that moving around as highly disruptive to my professional and personal development. This is why I didn't have to think too long before accepting an offer from another employer.
(For obvious reasons, this is a highly restrained telling of the sequence of events.)
First, I met with the relationship partner for the secondment. This was a contentious conversation. I had assumed that because (i) the secondment is a longstanding and continuous arrangement--with a new associate rotating in each year, and (ii) the work I've been doing did not include any long-term projects, it would not be unduly burdensome if I were to give notice and quit. The partner did not share my view of the situation. I gave him a longer notice period than I had intended, but he was not satisfied.
Second, I spoke with the administrative partner for the office. This would have been the first conversation had I not been out on secondment. No problems here.
Then, I emailed the partners in LA. If I hadn't quit, I would have been returning to LA to work for them beginning in January. These are good guys who gave me a place to work when I needed it the most. Replies included "I'm terribly sorry we couldn't give you a better experience" and "we have the highest regard for you."
Next, I emailed the partners in SD. These guys aren't concerned about my whereabouts, but they were the ones who hired me in the first place so it seemed right to let them know I was leaving. Replies included "thank you for being so gracious about the... relocations" and multiple replies along the lines of "I want to apologize... for not providing... the [expected] work opportunities."
Finally, I met with my GM at the secondment. I wish I could talk about this conversation in more detail, because it was interesting from a Japanese business culture point of view. What I can say, is that:
- Japanese companies like this one offer "permanent" employment to their employees in exchange for extreme loyalty. At-will employment is strange to them. Quitting is scandalous (for the permanent employees; I've seen many secondees quit during my time at the company).
- My GM had to submit an application to HR, who then granted permission for me to quit. This was bizarre to me given that I do not have an employment relationship of any kind with the company. The firm has an agreement with them to provide a secondee, but I am not a party to a contract with either the firm or the company.
I struggle with disappointing authority figures so there were some pangs of guilt and sleepless nights after the conversation with the secondment partner, but quitting was the right to do.