How to be Brief Without Being Curt: Departure Emails 101

When I was a baby lawyer, I hated intra-firm emails.  They were always so curt.  It would hurt my feelings.

Now, I understand that when you get a bunch of type A personalities in a building and then make them do a bunch of things in the most inefficient way possible, they get a little antsy and need to find an outlet for their innate need to trim the fat off daily tasks.  But sometimes my colleagues would be so scrimpy with their ascii that you couldn't even understand what they were saying.

A typical exchange would look like this:

From: Last Day at the Office Emails
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 20XX  9:27 PM
To: Kurt 
Subject: New hardcopy docs


I just wanted to let you know that we just received 15 bankers boxes of hardcopy documents from opposing counsel.  I am half-way through the online review and was wondering if you'd like me to continue with that until completion and then start the hardcopy review, or if you'd prefer that I switch over to the hardcopy review immediately.  

Also, I sent you my findings re: procedural issues late last night/early this morning --you had asked for it ASAP yesterday so I just wanted to make sure you received it.  I realize now that it might have gotten lost in the daily morning email traffic.  Please let me know if you want me to re-send.

Hope you and your family are having a great Thanksgiving.

Last Day at the Office Emails

From: Kurt
Sent: Thursday, November 25, 20XX  9:28 PM
To: Last Day at the Office Emails

ok.  thnx.

Must brevity always come with the cost of meaning and hurt feelings?  As the following departure email demonstrates, no, it certainly does not.

From:   XXXX 
Sent:   Tuesday, January 25, 1994 12:24 AM 
To:     all 
Subject:        departure

After many a summer it's time to move on.   It was fun while it lasted.

                                Love and kisses and all that jazz


P.S.     Starting February 8 I can be reached at:

                        New York, New York 
                        (212 ) XXX-XXXX

Isn't that nice?  In 22 words, our writer takes you on a nostalgic saunter through summers past, showers you with affection, and somehow still manages to sound cool and slightly aloof, like the star quarterback older brother in a 1950's sitcom who's packing up for college and leaving you with his baseball card collection, cos that's kids' stuff, and it's time he grow up a little now.  Beat.  Points his finger at you like a pistol, winks.  But not too much, if you know what he means!

Thnx, Wally.  We'll miss u.

How a Fashionista Makes an Exit: Departure Email from the Fashion Industry

I was forwarded the following departure email by the individual who wrote it.  He said that he didn't really care if I anonymized it or not, so I've decided to keep in the name of the company, the U.S. office of Italian luxury sportswear designer, The House of Maxmara.

Not sure about how it is for other professions, but here is a run-down of linguistic choices that you would never see in a law firm departure email:  admitting to having a heart; simultaneous usage of all three tenses separated by forward slashes; image of riding off into the sunset for someone that is not going into retirement; the entire sentence starting with "you've all touched me" that brilliantly can be interpreted as sincere appreciation, thinly-veiled displeasure, or accusation of workplace sexual harassment; an emphatic command not cloaked as a recommendation (i.e, "use it!" not "I highly recommend that you use it"); reference to social media other than LinkedIn; "shine on your crazy diamonds;" a picture, a postscript, and a link to .

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: XXXX
Date: Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 2:16 PM
Subject: And Now For Something Completely Different
To: Press Office <>

Hello All of My Friends at MaxMara,

It is with a heavy heart that I say that today has been/will be/is my last day at MaxMara. It's been quite the ride, to say the least, but now it's time for that ride to go off into the sunset. You've all touched me in some way that I would never, ever take back. In fact, let's keep IN touch. Below is my contact info, use it! For the next couple days I'll un-lockdown my Facebook.

Shine on you crazy diamonds,


PS: For those that didn't get the subject/picture due to cultural hurdles please see this link if you're truly puzzled.

Best Attachment to a Departure Email Ever

From: XXXX
Sent: Friday, April 09, 2004 4:47 PM
Subject: Adieu

As many of you have probably already heard, I have accepted an in-house position at XXXX here in Kansas City beginning April 26. My last day at the firm will be April 16.

Over the years I have seen many resignation e-mails and couldn't really come up with anything original to say, so for those of you who were wanting a more in-depth resignation, I have attached a do-it-yourself resignation memo....enjoy.

In all seriousness, I have truly enjoyed my time here and want to thank you all for making this such a great place to learn the practice of law.


TO:The Firm
DATE:April 9, 2004

    After ___[1]___, I have decided to leave XXXX in order to ___[2]___.  While this was not an easy decision for me, ___[3]___.  I have ___[4]___ my time here and will ___[5]___.  XXXX has been ___[6]___ and I will always ___[7]___.  I look forward to ___[8]___ and wish you all ___[9]___.  Until ___[10]___, I bid you all adieu.

a.    thoughtful consideration
b.    the flip of an “Arkansas – Jewel of the Ozarks” commemorative quarter
c.    years of searching for a way out
d.    a couple shots of Wild Turkey
e.    recovering from my bout of amnesia and remembering I never went to law school

a.    accept an in-house position
b.    pursue an acting career – look for me next season on “Saved by the Bell-the Prison Years” as Zach, the all-American boy next door turned crack dealer turned prison ho
c.    abandon my alter-ego and devote all my time to my super hero duties
d.    live off the generosity of others (i.e. Tina)
e.    be able to sleep at night

a.    I feel it is the right one
b.    the Magic Eight Ball is never wrong
c.    it wasn’t exactly rocket science either
d.    it was easier than hanging around until somebody realized I wasn’t doing anything
e.    stock options are hard to resist

a.    thoroughly enjoyed
b.    cautiously endured
c.    already forgotten most of
d.    surfed the internet a lot during
e.    miraculously survived

a.    miss all of you I have come to know
b.    never look back
c.    remember the little people I crawled over on my way to the top
d.    miss the free booze
e.    eagerly await the tears of sorrow when you hear I am leaving

a.    a great place to learn the practice of law from some of the best
b.    very punctual with my pay checks
c.    a benevolent master to this flying monkey
d.    by far the best law firm I’ve ever worked for
e.    the source of my indigestion

a.    value my experience here
b.    be thankful I wasn’t sued for malpractice
c.    keep garlic and a crucifix nearby
d.    think back fondly when using my frequent flyer miles
e.    believe the children are our future

a.    working with many of you in the future
b.    getting out of here alive
c.    retirement
d.    the next episode of The Apprentice
e.    being the client (wa-ha-ha-ha)
a.    the best of luck in your future endeavors
b.    had gotten me a going away gift
c.    would kiss my a**
d.    were coming with me
e.    could appreciate how funny this memo is

a.    our paths cross again
b.    I get fired and come begging for my job back
c.    hell freezes over
d.    the next firm-sponsored event with an open bar
e.    I need a competent lawyer to fix something I’ve screwed up

The Cleverest Departure Email of All Time Comes From the Finance Industry

Here at Last Day at the Office Emails, we have seen a lot of departure emails written by people in the legal and advertising industries --people who, ostensibly, are pretty good with words.  And while their departure emails have been alarming, scandalous, and jolly, we haven't yet been treated with something so sublimely clever and underhanded that, not only do we miss its genius at first glance, but even after five, six glances, we are still left scratching our heads, wondering if we are seeing subtext where there is none.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I finally came upon such an email, the most cleverly underhanded departure email of all time, from someone in finance, no less:
-----Original Message-----
From: XXXX
Sent: Friday, November 05, 2010 3:45 PM
Subject: Farewell
I haven't had a chance to meet everyone on the XXXX team but that does not mean that I'm exempt from saying goodbye to you all. At first I wasn't sure what to say, but I guess you can say I've been practicing! Essentially, on a going forward basis, I'm going to always remember all of the experience I've gained during my time here. At the end of the day, I hope we all touch base in the near future because as they say "it is what it is."
Upon first blush, this reads like your standard good-bye email, it's completely devoid of any substantive information, yet still manages to be way too wordy.  And indeed, that might be the entire story behind this Last Day Email.  Before you make up your mind, however, take a look at how each awkward sentence of the text avails itself perfectly to a more devious interpretation.

TEXT:  I haven't had a chance to meet everyone on the XXXX team but that does not mean that I'm exempt from saying goodbye to you all.

SUBTEXT:  It's my last day in the office, and amazingly, I still haven't met my own team.  Not office.  Not department.  Team.  Why does this company even have a professional development department?  Anyway, I'm out of this hell hole and I'm gonna rub it in all your faces, whether I've met you or not.

TEXT:  At first I wasn't sure what to say, but I guess you can say I've been practicing!

SUBTEXT: At first I thought expressing my sentiments so baldly would be too confrontational and hostile, so I added an exclamation mark to make it sound confusingly jolly and cheerful!  But really it's not!  You feel uneasy and don't know why!

TEXT: Essentially, on a going forward basis, I'm going to always remember all of the experience I've gained during my time here.

SUBTEXT: This sentence is an ode to the horrible corporate-speak I have been exposed while working here.  For example, Pam starts all of her sentences with "essentially," whether it makes sense or not.  I think she thinks it means "I'm-wiser-than-my-static-ridden-angora-sweater-suggests-ly."

Also, what is with "on a going forward basis" instead of just "going forward?"  Did someone important embarrass himself terribly at a PowerPoint presentation when it was suggested that the team "pick up the ball, going forward?"  Lean across the conference table and grab a male intern in the loins, perhaps?

And yeah, I did mean that I will remember all of the experiences I've gained here, and yeah, it sounds like a threat because it is.

TEXT: At the end of the day, I hope we all touch base in the near future because as they say "it is what it is."

SUBTEXT:  This last sentence is just like my sentence (lol) here at this company.  It starts off with a lot of promise, like it's building up to something informative, revelatory, even profound.  But it ends quickly and abruptly with the most frustratingly meaningless "conclusion" of all time.  If this sentence were an equation, the left side would be a complicated quadratic formula, with the equals sign blinged out with Swarovski crystals and shining neon lights.  The right side would just be a dirty mirror.

Perhaps you remain unconvinced of the genius of this departure email.  Certainly, it is possible that I am so emotionally bankrupt that I have turned an earnestly though poorly written letter into a work of staggering genius.  But isn't it also possible that after decades of barely-veiled attacks on the workplace, one day, someone, somewhere, has finally perfected the cleverest, most insidiously insulting, departure email of all time?

At the end of the day, I hope we all agree to disagree in the near future because as they say "it is what it is."

Some Like it Hot: Southern Lawyers Write the Warmest Departure Emails

Whether it is the writer's intention or not, you can tell a lot about a workplace's culture by the kind of departure emails it generates.  A comparison of last day at the office emails from different geographic regions of the United States suggests that although New York might be the national melting pot, you might have to go south to find warmth in the workplace.

First up is a nice farewell email written by a lawyer at a law firm in Atlanta, Georgia.

From: XXXX
Sent: Friday, XXXX, 2010 6:30 PM
Subject: So long...
Dear friends,
As many of you know, I am leaving XXXX to work for [local public defender's office] in my home town of XXXX, Tennessee.  The decision to leave the firm was a difficult one:  on the one hand, I could go to work every day for the most dangerous and depraved elements of our society; on the other hand, I could leave XXXX and go to work for the [local public defender's office].
Bad jokes aside, I feel incredibly fortunate to have cut my teeth on litigation and the law at XXXX.  More importantly, I have made many wonderful friends. Please keep in touch (contact info below) -- I plan to remain in Atlanta for the next month or so and would love to see as many of you as possible.  And while it is my sincerest hope that none of you ever needs the services of my future employers, do please drop a line if you are in XXXX and need a beer. 
Sorry to indulge in the long tradition of bittersweet farewell emails, but I will miss you all. 

As you can see, our southerner's email follows the standard Last Day Email template; it begins with "As many of you know," segues into a gentle joke, asserts that the writer's experience at the workplace has been both professionally and socially enriching, and ends with a plea to keep in touch along with contact info.

Unlike a writer from the northern United States, however, our southern writer is not consumed by a fear of appearing dumb, and dares to -gasp- start one of his sentences with "And" and to suggest that his colleagues might one day "need a beer."  Most significant, however, is a complete lack of passive aggressiveness in the southern gentleman's email.  There is no subtext of discontent here.  As we shall see in the second email below, no matter how steadfast northern lawyers stick to the departure email template, a bit of absolute, utter, disdain for certain aspects of the workplace always seeps through, just like how The Trap emits smoke and a putrid stench after it successfully captures a ghost.

Now let's look at a Last Day Email from a litigation associate at a large New York law firm:
From: XXXX
Subject: My Departure
On Tuesday March 24th I will begin a new phase of my career at XXXX.  I am sincerely thankful to all of you for making my experiences here so pleasant and rewarding.  I have enjoyed my time at XXXX and will miss the familiar faces. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this very special firm.
I can be reached at 212-XXX-XXXX or by e-mail at
All the very best and continued success to each of you.
Immediately, this email makes you feel that the writer is in a hurry, not necessarily because he has a lot of things to do, but because he thinks interacting with you a complete waste of time.  His farewell email also follows the Last Day at the Office Email conventions, but he does not have an extra word to spare.  There is something perfunctory in the air.  While our southern writer mentions the "wonderful friends" he made at his firm, our northern writer can only attest to the familiarity of his colleagues' faces.

But the most telling sign of sheer, utter, displeasure with his workplace is the word "special."  Popular culture offers countless scenarios of a character searching for a word to describe something bad politely and finally, after a long ellipsis, settling, with a wink to the camera, on "special."  As a result, "special" has become a widely recognized inside joke.  Precisely for this reason, using "special" in a real life departure email demonstrates a certain degree of cavalierness --the writer is barely hiding his disgust, because he doesn't really care if you know that he hates your guts.

So there you have it.  Warmer climates produce warmer departure emails.  Yet another check mark in the "pro's" column for global warming.

Beware the Male Foreign Associate: He Quotes, He Gropes, He Elopes

The Male Foreign Associate (MFA) manages a delicate balance of appreciating Americana (hotdogs! regional dialects! Bill Cosby!) while also steadfastly despising America (international relations! overly litigious! capitalism!). This duality extends to his persona, which initially appears harmlessly ineffectual but is surprisingly capable of subterfuge.

The MFA's body resembles a large banana. He is tall and slim, but not reedy. He neither cowers like a Male Beta Associate (MBA) nor stands up straight like a tough guy. Sleekly dressed in dark apparel, he rests his hands in his trouser pockets, leisurely fingering the interior lining of his fine Italian threads, so that the trajectory of his body arcs, banana-like, into a subtle curve. When he sits, he crosses his legs like a girl.

There is nothing paternal nor fraternal about the MFA's role in the social sphere. He is unmistakably an uncle: slightly removed, unpredictable, as capable of bestowing a princely inheritance upon you as he is of murdering your father and marrying your mother. Yet when you speak to him, he can be so terrifically cheesy that you think you have him all figured out. But as we shall see in today's Departure Email, just because he enthusiastically attends all of your firm's professional development initiatives and appreciates irony strictly as a form of entertainment --not as the lifestyle choice of America's self-appointed intelligentsia (am I rite, folks??!), does not mean that he isn't capable of... plotting.

Of course, the MFA has enviable qualities as well. He has a broader sense of time and place than Americans, and he incorporates references to both in his daily dialogue. His lack of shame and self-loathing allows others to rely on him to make the obligatory toast at work functions, to be the first to wear the firm's racing jersey for the annual JP Morgan Chase 5K, to strike up conversations with the pretty new girl and not notice that, one, it is going horribly and two, the entire office is watching and eavesdropping with great interest. The MFA boosts office morale while allowing you to pretend to be cooly detached.

But beware! Just when you think you can walk all over the MFA's banana-like body for your own amusement, you may be in for a major slip and fall. Let's take a look at the following MFA departure email, written to the New York office of XYZ Law Firm:

From: XXXX
Sent: Tuesday, XXXX 08, 20XX 5:54 PM
To: All NY
Subject: Farewell
“Alea iacta est” – Julius Caesar would say.
The die is cast. The troops of the XYZ Law Firm Italian practice have crossed the Rubicon.
We have been thinking of crossing the Hudson but, with due respect, New Jersey would not have sustained the literary metaphor with Rome.

Our MFA quickly establishes in three short lines his familiarity with historical knowledge, and his familiarity with your lack of such knowledge, via the considerate translation. Notice that even though he is leaving America for Italy, our MFA does not forget to participate in the good ol' American tradition of bashing the state of New Jersey.

More simply stated, this coming Friday will be my last day at XYZ Law Firm. In the last three years, while being formally employed as an associate of the corporate department, I have been primarily collaborating with XXXX in establishing and developing the Italian practice at XYZ Law Firm.

Do not underestimate the MFA. Remember the paragraph above. The phrasing. The implications. Your understanding of what it means. This paragraph is so ingeniously ambiguous it should be categorized as an optical illusion.

Although it was a weighty decision, I have decided to follow my mentor in a new professional venture. From him, I learned that life shrinks or expands in proportion to your courage to always strive for personal excellence, going down, if necessary, non-traditional and risky paths. The so-called Italian desk is primarily the result of XXXX’s vision, intelligence and determination. We are given an opportunity to hold on to such vision, potentially setting the stage for higher achievements and pursuits. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that I will miss all of you who I have worked with and learned from over the past three years at XYZ Law Firm.

Did you flinch at the barely hidden insinuation that unlike his courageous, excellent, life, yours is kinda grey and dinky? To give our MFA some credit, he doesn't only promote himself in a slightly insulting manner --he is just as eager to heap praise on a co-worker, Rihanna, or the bento box he had for dinner last night. He's a little bit clueless that way. But not you; you feel pretty clued in next to him. You think you know exactly what the above paragraph means. Mmm-hmm, let's read on...

My first special thanks go to XXXX, who has been the chair of the Italian affiliation practice. Despite my formal assignment to the corporate department, XXXX has treated me as a protégé throughout the last three years. It is been an honor to be so closely exposed to XXXXs professional and personal excellence. His achievements speak of themselves, and his role in the development of the Italian practice at XXXX has been critical. (Furthermore, XXXX is also one of those special individuals who make you remember that, in the end, it is the person you become, and not the things you have achieved, that is most important.)

Not to nag, but you are keeping up with this Italian office plot line, aren't you?

During my tenure as a corporate associate, I have been lucky enough to work with many talented lawyers. My thank-you award goes to XXXX. XXXX taught me how to deal with ability and (reasonable) grace in a tension-filled environment. His professionalism, knowledge, and mentoring skills set a model of corporate attorney that I will strive to imitate. (And, if I ever land a job as a general counsel at Prada or Ferrari, good chances are that XXXX would be my U.S. securities counselor…)

The MFA dedicates entire paragraphs to three different people: his mentor, the recipient of his first special thanks, and the recipient of his thank-you award. He does not explain what distinguishes one from the other. How frustrating would it have been to read and revise his legal memos? He writes with the precision of a teddy bear.

I also enjoyed working and being acquainted with XXXX, XXXX, and XXXX. In particular, I would like to thank XXXX for taking me to my first Yankees game, which, by default, made me a Yankees fan, I guess (however, Mets fans will be pleased to know that it was a crushing 1-9 loss, which also explains why XXXX stopped inviting me…).

The MFA thinks of parentheses as little textual hugs for run-on sentences.

The quality of my work, if any, has enormously benefited from our special, competent, hardworking, staff. XXXX is really a fine lawyer, as much as the other members of the library. The corporate paralegals have always assisted me with unique dedication and competence. And, special thanks to my assistant, XXXX, for her unique patience in dealing with my relaxed Italian-style (i.e. lazy) time recording habits…

An acquaintance who graduated from the nation's top-ranked law school once lost a pre-recession interview because he made a joke about taking naps under his desk at work. Lesson learned? In an industry that bills by the hour but pays its employees a flat wage, making laziness jokes is professional suicide. The MFA is the only one who can get away with it; he's not lazy, he's laissez faire.

While strolling down the firm’s hallways in the vain search of a good espresso shot, I made some great friends. One is XXXX, who left the firm last year. Another is XXXX, who has been a uniquely patient and supportive office neighbor. For those of you who believe in old stereotypes about Italian men, I swear I did not pick XXXX because she is blonde and pretty

While typing his Last Day Email, our MFA pauses here and flashes a debonair smile at his computer screen.

XXXX and XXXX, although you are not blonde, I did not forget you. As many of you already know (or should know), XXXX, besides his work as litigation associate, has attained fame and recognition as captain of the XXXX basketball and soccer teams. We are all grateful to XXXX for having brought the XXXX sport programs at sidereal highs. I am personally thankful to him for appointing a European with a funny accent as the vice-captain of the basketball team. Accompanying me in so many battles on the parquet was also XXXX. It is been comforting to play with someone who, besides having such an inviting, almost familiar, last name, bears a striking resemblance to Michael Jordan...

I hope that this colleague really does bear a striking resemblance to Michael Jordan and that this isn't like how all asian males in small town America are told that they look exactly like Jackie Chan.

Beginning next week, my contact information will be as follows:
work e-mail:
personal e-mail:
I wish you all continuing success both professionally and otherwise. Please, stay in touch!

Ok, remember how I kept telling you to keep track of the Italian office narrative? Did you? If not, I suggest you go back and read those paragraphs again. Now tell me, where did you think our MFA was going? Did you, like me, think he was going to Italy to open up XYZ Law Firm's Italian office, with his mentor? Because he had said he was going to?


But look at his new work email address, Why ABC and not XYZ? Could it be that instead of making a "weighty decision" to develop the international presence of XYZ law firm at considerable risk by opening up an Italian office with his mentor --as implied in our MFA's departure email-- he is actually following a defecting partner to go to the Italian office of another firm? In other words, instead of saying, "hey guys I'm leaving the firm along with partner XXXX to work in the Italian office of another law firm," which any normal red-blooded American would've done, the MFA spent at least three solid paragraphs making it seem like he was spearheading the "so-called Italian desk" of his current law firm?


Did he lie in his departure email? No he didn't. If you re-read what at first appears to be shapeless, meandering prose, you will see that he manages to be effusive without asserting anything concrete. He says everything but he also says... nothing. Though he dances very very closely around it, he never directly asserts that he's going to open the Italian office of XYZ Law Firm. In fact, he admits right off the bat that not only is he leaving the firm after three years, but that for the entire three years he was at the firm, he has been "primarily collaborating with XXXX in establishing and developing the Italian practice at XYZ Law Firm." (emphasis added) That is to say, he has been planning to break-up with you since the day you guys agreed to change your Facebook status to "In a Relationship."

How do you feel, sucker?

Of course, you want to know why. Why did our MFA bother to go to great lengths to mislead you with his departure email, only to reveal the truth at the very end? To be funny? Because he felt guilty about leaving the firm? Your guess is as good as mine.

Alas, our MFA's departure letter is no different from our overall interactions with MFAs at the workplace. At first you think you're the one having a laugh at his expense, but come Friday at 5 PM, you're stuck at your desk inputting your billable hours for the week, meanwhile he's strolling past you with his arm around a pretty blonde, winking thanks at his assistant for doing his hours for him. He's just heading out for a cigarette break, he says, but you know he's never coming back.

The No. 1 Reason Why You Should Choose Advertising Over Law

Dear College Student Who is Good with Words:

Everyday in this country, young people decide that they should go to law school because they are good with words.  Popular culture certainly promulgates the belief that it is both practical and romantic to have a law degree.  Practical, because it is the natural manifest destiny of your linguistic skills and pesky penchant for wanting to be right all the time.  Romantic, because great cinema and literature is peppered with mysterious, brilliant, misunderstood characters who have unused law degrees collecting dust in their attics.  What a stupid way to think your way into a quarter-life crisis!

Guess what, brainiac: Being good with words will give you a significant advantage in all kinds of jobs, not just the law.

For example, consider advertising.  

I know, I know.  There is a dearth of cinematic hero copywriters --the law has Atticus Finch, advertising has um, Nick Marshall.  You've always fancied yourself to be someone who belonged to a profession that requires its practitioners to pay several hundred dollars to pass a largely irrelevant test.  But before you completely ignore my suggestion, perhaps you should use those dangerously sharp English major skills of yours to compare and contrast the differences in structure, tone, and content of a couple of departure emails --one from an advertising company, and the other from a law firm.

To make this exercise more relatable to you, I have chosen last day at the office emails from interns --young people at the beginning of their careers-- instead of seasoned veterans.  This is the most bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you will be in your entire career trajectory, before you've even had a chance to stop getting a thrill out of automatic staplers and compressed air spray cans.  

The first farewell email is from our advertising intern:
Hi everyone!
Today’s my last day at XXXX – as most of you may know from the goodbye cupcakes. I just wanted to say thanks for a great summer and an amazing internship that’s taught me loads. Not only did I learn a great deal about the ad industry here, I also picked up a lot of great life skills, like how to dodge rogue ping pong balls and tie bundles of wood with twine. 
My email is if any of you would like to stay in touch, and I’m also on Facebook and Linked In.
Thanks for being a great team to work with. Hope you all enjoyed the baked goods. 
Is there a more beautiful pair of compound words than "goodbye cupcakes?"  This short farewell message is chockfull of phrases that sound like they were plucked out of a Huckleberry Finn novel.  The message is simple, direct, fun, and most significantly, unguarded.  Our advertising intern boldly addresses the office with a casual but emphatic "Hi everyone!"  She is not afraid to use the term "taught me loads" even though it makes her sound, frankly, high as a kite.  Nor is the writer afraid to suggest Facebook as a legitimate way to keep in touch, even though it reminds readers of her relative youth.  The email is energetic, high-spirited, and full of life.

Below is the departure email of a legal intern:

I just wanted to notify you that the last day of my clerkship at XXXX will be Friday, November 12.  Please let me know if there is any pending project that I need to finish up before that date.  It has been a pleasure working here.
Our law intern's departure email doesn't mention any celebratory desserts or Japanese game show-like activities, but the most glaring difference between the law firm email and the advertising email is how guarded the law firm email writer sounds.  I imagine a young man with his shoulders scrunched up to his ears, wearing a trench coat with the collar turned up (but not in a sexy way, we're talking about real lawyers here), peeking out from under a thick, protective, Ignatiusian cap.  He's afraid to show any emotion or personality, and his main concern isn't whether his colleagues enjoyed his goodbye cupcakes or even if they will keep in touch, but whether he has forgotten about any pending projects that he needs to do before he leaves.

Only a few months ago, both interns were probably very similar to each other --excited, invigorated, and a little bit nervous at their first forays into the rest of their adult lives.  But now, after being exposed to their chosen professional environs for a few months and having sent off their last day emails, our advertising intern is going to run around the office bopping people on the head with ping pong balls as they compliment her on her baked goods.  Meanwhile our law clerk is going to continue to sit quietly at his desk, noticing grammatical mistakes in his email and dying a thousand deaths inside, and hoping that his departure date will not inconvenience anybody too much.

So what is the no. 1 reason why you should go into advertising instead of law?  Let me answer that with a question: Which email would you rather write?

Yours truly,
Last Day at the Office Emails

Departure Email Hall of Fame: Shinyung Oh

Most of you lawyers out there have probably read this one already, which must be the only Last Day at the Office Email in the world to use the phrase "had her uterus scraped" literally.  When I read it two years ago, I was still a lawyer myself and I remember thinking, "Wah-wah, shut up."  I just re-read the email now, a year after I've written my own Last Day email, and I feel really bad for this woman and have no idea why I was so heartless before, except that workplaces can have a hardening effect.  If I had a motto when I was a first year associate, it was probably, "Work hard play hard!"  Ridiculous.  Anyway, although the email below was initially circulated in its redacted form the writer eventually went public and even gave an interview.  You can read about it here on the legal blog, Above the Law.

From: [Redacted]

Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:14 AM

To: [redacted]

Subject: My departure

The circumstances surrounding my departure from Paul Hastings have been deeply disappointing.  It is one thing to ignore an email sent as a colleague is waiting to have her uterus scraped after a miscarriage, but it is wholly another level of heartlessness to lay her off six days after that.  [Partner X] is the only one who expressed any sympathy after my miscarriage, and I am grateful to him for that.

A business is a business, but it takes very little to convey some level of humanity to carry out even the most difficult business decisions.  We are human beings first before we are partners or associates.  Had you simply explained that the department is unable to sustain the number of associates in the office, I would have completely understood. Had you explained that the office had been directed to reduce the number of associates and I was chosen because of my high billable rate and low billable hours, I would have appreciated such directness, even though the consequences of blindly raising billable rates to an unsustainable degree is plainly predictable.  What I do not understand is the attempt to blame the associate for not bringing in the business that should have been brought in by each of you and to hide your personal failures by attempting to tarnish my excellent performance record and looking to undermine my sense of self esteem.

The last few months have been surreal, at best.  Just last year, I had celebrated my engagement and marriage with many of you.  In fact, during the engagement party, the head of the department took my then-fiancée aside to express to him what a great attorney I am and what a great future I faced.  Indeed, less than a week before this year’s bizarre performance review, I was again told by the same partner that my work is great and that the slow business in no way reflected on my performance.  A week later, I was given a mediocre performance review and told that I should worry about whether I have a future at Paul Hastings.  When I asked for specific examples of my alleged deficiencies, I received no response.  When I asked for an explanation as to why I had been downgraded in so many performance categories when I received absolutely no criticism throughout the year and my prior year’s review was stellar, I was told that my prior year’s performance assessment may have been “over-inflated.”  What a startling response.

After my miscarriage, I had discussed my concern with several associates that Paul Hastings may use that opportunity to lay me off quickly before I have a chance to get pregnant again.  Those associates thought it unfathomable that a firm would be so callous and assured me that Paul Hastings isn’t that kind of a place.  What a lesson this has been for them – and for me.  I would not have anticipated that a partner would tell me one thing and completely renege on his words a week later. I would not have anticipated that a female partner (whom I had looked to as a role model) with children of her own would sit stone faced as I broke into tears just days after my miscarriage. Even a few words of sympathy or concern would have made a world of difference.  What kind of people squander human relationships so easily?

If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off.  It shows startlingly poor judgment and management skills — and cowardice — on your parts.  If you should ever have the misfortune of suddenly losing something or someone precious to you, I hope you don’t find similar heartlessness as I have.

As for your request for a release, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreement in return for three months’ pay, I reject it.  Unlike you, I am not just a paid mouthpiece with no independent judgment.  I will decide how and to whom to communicate how you have treated me.  I find it ironic that you would try to buy the right not to be disparaged after behaving as you have.  Your actions speak volumes, and you don’t need much help from me in damaging your reputation.

I attach the proposed release for any associate who may be interested in reviewing its details.


See You Really Soon: A Stalker's Departure Email

Every once in a while, a woman with stalking tendencies latches on to her place of work.

This individual grew up in a household where she was constantly competing for the attention of the authority figure, which in her family was her father.  Her mother doted on her father and her older brothers, but had no authority.  Her father respected only his sons, and perhaps pampered our stalker's prettier sister, but paid almost no attention to our stalker.  Her mother was afraid of how much our stalker reminded her of herself, and this fear caused her mother to push her away.  The result is an environment where our stalker could not gain respect or attention because she was neither a boy nor a daddy's girl.  What's worse, she probably had a physical characteristic during adolescence that made her feel even more unlovable --something mundane but very in-your-face, like severe acne.

When our stalker entered the workforce, her office took the place of her family in for her lifelong search for approval.  Indeed, she often likes to tell people that her co-workers are "like family" to her.  No one has ever said this about her.  At the office, our stalker laughs gregariously, but the gregariousness is stained with desperation, not joie-de-vivre.  She watches sports and is always ready to talk about "last night's game," not because she actually enjoys watching sports, but because she wants to be "that cute sporty girl."  Sometimes she brings baked goods to the office, not because she enjoys baking or (let's face it folks) has food issues, but because she wants to be "that cupcake girl."  (Regardless of her age, she will always refer to herself as a girl.)  She's a good worker, and people take advantage of her eagerness to stay late.

She narrows her eyes and gets extremely quiet when a woman who is less giving, but more sure of herself, is around.  Our stalker does not want to acknowledge to herself that other women do not have to give so much to get what she has always wanted to have.

The guys at the workplace do not think of her as "one of the guys" in a good way.  She's one of the guys only in the sense that they can be lazier around her --no holding the door open, no watching their language, no buying of the drinks at Happy Hour (she buys a pitcher for the boys and happily sloshes it over to where they are).  They don't really get her and don't try to --but they certainly accept everything she offers.  And this, to her, is as close to attention and respect as she knows; it comforts her when people let her smother them with her usefulness.

In her devotion to her company, in which the authority figures are predominantly male, our stalker keeps track of all anniversaries --she has a keen recollection of who started working when, and each authority figure's promotions through the years.  She remembers the "old office lay-out" and will often reminisce about things that are completely uninteresting just to feel the warm embrace of a shared past.  Outside of work, she will name-drop her company as if it were the name of a celebrity that everyone should know.  She is single.  When one of the guys at the office gets married, she is the first to buy a large Hallmark card from the shop in the downstairs lobby and send an email with text in various colors, soliciting signatures and demanding secrecy with too many exclamation marks.

What happens when our stalker has to leave her job, the one place where she has been able to receive approval?  Answer: She doesn't really believe it's happening, even as she's writing her Last Day at the Office email.

Here is an example of a stalker's departure email:
It feels like yesterday that I started here at XXXX as the “new girl”. It’s been a crazy 4.5 years, seeing this place grow from 2 floors to 5. I have had so much fun working with all of you and working on such amazing projects.  I am going to miss this building, all of your faces, the good laughs, and of course beer cart. Can’t wait to watch all the great things you guys do.
This paragraph sounds less like a workplace departure email and more like someone bidding farewell to the child of their next door neighbor, whom they had had the privilege of knowing since he was just a baby.  The writer knows full well that she's on the outside looking in, she's just glad that she was able to get a good seat.  Note the familial, intimate tone of voice.
BUT, this is not really goodbye as you will see me lingering in the lobby or waiting for you guys at the Underground to have a dance party.
Cough *stalker!* cough.  On her Facebook page, she has many, many, photo albums of her co-workers drinking and dancing at the Underground.  No one ever offers to take her picture.  When she tries to include herself in a group shot, the pictures always come out with her face grotesquely distorted by its proximity to the camera.  Note the forceful all-caps "BUT."
Here is my contact in case you ever want to catch up.
"Catch up" because she doesn't want to just stay in touch, she fantasizes about hour-long chats across an enamel-colored two-top at the local Dunkin' Donuts.  By the window so that people can see.  She always gets the one with sprinkles.
Thank you,
Well, I hope you guys have enjoyed this blog.  I'm going to slit my wrists now.

A Pulitzer Winner's Departure Email: 6 Techniques You Can Use

Want to write a memorable, masterful, departure email?  

No, couldn't give a f*ck?  

Okay, that's fair, I get ya.  You want to get out of this maddening enclave for mild Asperger's as soon as possible.  Plus, what did these people ever do for you?  But it's 5 PM on a Friday and the poor schmucks are waiting around for the last word on whether they'll have to work over the weekend.  Meanwhile you're trying to stop yourself from whistling with pleasure as you force feed your old files to an industrial-sized paper shredder.  Don't you think the poor schmucks deserve something more than a crappy template?

If you're feeling charitably inclined towards your soon-to-be ex-colleagues as you sit down to draft your departure email, take a look at how the pros do it.

Dan Neil won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism for his writing about cars.  Earlier this year he left The Los Angeles Times for The Wall Street Journal and wrote the following departure email, which was then posted online.  I will identify 6 techniques in Dan Neil's email that can be incorporated into any departure letter and compare and contrast his execution of those techniques with that of a law firm partner.  In other words, let's take a look and see what you can copy.


From: Neil, Dan 
Sent: Thursday, February 11, 2010 2:54 PM 
To: yyeditall
Subject: Dan Neil on the bounce

Friends, colleagues, brothers and sisters,

Whether used as a salutation or placed somewhere in the middle, a list of types of people at the workplace is a Last Day Email mainstay.  The order in which workplace demographics are listed usually reveals the writer's thought process and value system.  Here's the opening salvo from our law firm partner: 

To My Partners, Colleagues and Friends,

You can see just what he was thinking.  The readers at the forefront of his mind, the people that he was primarily writing to, were the other partners.  So that came first on the list.  Then he thought about the more junior lawyers at the firm, and imagined them reading his words with admiration and wonder, so he wrote "colleagues" next.  Finally, he realized that he wanted to send his email to everyone in the office, not just the lawyers, but what... what are those non-lawyer people called?  The ones that know where to get more of those pens with the padded, the padded barrels and who can, as if by magic, convert two-dimensional pieces of cardboard into magnificent document holding structures?  After some thought, he shrugs and decides on "friends."

That's not bad.  But a Pulitzer winner goes one step further and thinks about the effect of his words on his readers.  Starting out with "Friends" as Dan Neil does is classy --it is all inclusive.  No one reads it and thinks, "Oh that is not me, I guess I'm somewhere further down the list."  Instead, everyone from management to mailroom reads it and finds that it feels nice to be addressed as a friend.


Our Pulitzer winner begins his Last Day Email with a strong defense of the LA Times:
In the past week or so people have come up to me and said words to the effect: “The Journal, huh? Sinking ship and all that?”  And I just want to slam their heads in a car door.
I absolutely love this newspaper and I am immensely proud of my association with it.  People who talk shit about the LA Times to me are going to find me in their grille in a major way.
This morale boost isn't too touchy-feely because the writer employs curse words, puns relating to his automotive writing, and violent imagery.  The effect is that he makes you, the reader, feel good for being you.  He's saying, "I'm leaving you, but you f*cking rule."  You can do this too, but drop the automotive puns or it will look like you have anger issues.  Perhaps something like this would work for a law firm:

In the past week or so people have come up to me and said words to the effect: "XXXX LLP, huh?  Sinking ship and all that?"  And I just want to paper cut them with thick manila file folders on that soft webbed part between their fingers.
Do you know what everyone loves?  A story.  And what's more humbling and dramatic than a story of redemption by the workplace?

Maybe you don’t know this story. In November 2002 I had just come through an awful divorce (we pronounce that DEE-vorce in North Carolina).  I was sitting heartbroken and alone in a villa in the south of France, on some godforsaken travel assignment, contemplating the taste of gunpowder.  Nobody knew where I was.  The phone rang.  It was former editor John Carroll, who had somehow tracked me down.  He wanted me to come to Los Angeles and be the paper’s car critic.
Well, I said to him, as it happens my schedule has just opened up.
It was the beginning of the most wonderful professional experience of my life, the most fun, the most satisfying, the most intellectually challenging.  This placed saved me. It made me.
As Dan Neil's email demonstrates, the formula for the Personal Story for a departure email is:

  1. Reveal that you were not always the man/woman you are pretending to be now.
  2. Describe an intervention by your company.
  3. State that the intervention made you the resplendid creature you are today.
Let's go back to that law firm partner email we were looking at earlier:

When XXXX and XXXX called me to invite a conversation in late 19XX, I was thankful for the opportunity, as I was at a low point in my career, and they 'vouched" for me (notwithstanding my sordid college history with XXXX and my days as an associate with XXXX).  But for their friendship and confidence, I would not have had the chance to join this fine firm and become a part of the XXXX family.  Literally speaking, they picked me up out of a most difficult situation, and I vowed to pay them back by proving myself to them and to XXXX.  I hope I have.

Ok, so it's not as eloquent as Dan Neil's and it leaves me with homoerotic images of a bunch of male lawyers who had a "sordid college history" together "literally" picking each other up from "a most difficult situation."  But it totally makes me sit-up and pay attention.

Dan Neil was an outspoken critic of Sam Zell when he purchased the LA Times in 2007, and he unabashedly expresses his sentiments in his departure email:

It’s been a rough few years here, mainly because of the jackasses in Chicago who own us.  To them I say, with as much gusto as I can muster in an email, fuck you.
You too, can use the Common Enemy technique.

It really doesn't matter whom you vow eternal vengence on, or whether your company even has a common enemy, as long as you use the term "jackasses."  No one likes jackasses.  Everyone just wants them to be f*cked.  I think it's something about the word itself.  When you think of a jackass, don't you envision someone with arrogant hair and an annoying face, kind of like Pepe Le Pew in a suit?  Don't you just want him to get f*cked up?  

To employ the Common Enemy technique in your departure letter, simply copy Dan Neil's eloquent phrasing, but replace "Chicago" with "Washington."  That's it!  It's okay, you don't have to have a particular person in mind, or even a particular party.  Maybe the people at your office won't agree on exactly who the jackasses in Washington are, but it's not alienating because everyone vehemently agrees, without a doubt, that there are jackasses in Washington.


Dan Neil's Happy Ending takes the form of a one-two punch:  
On a happier note, there’s not a person in this building I do not like, if not love. The paper has more greatness ahead of it, and I’ll be watching from the east coast and rooting you on.
If you are able and inclined, there’s a beer call at Redwood tomorrow, around 5 pm. Hope to see you there.
One statement about the company's rosy future and another statement about beer.  Keep it simple and never forget the beer.  Let's see how our law firm partner did with his happy ending:

For those with whom I worked most closely, my congratulations, for this surely is emancipation day - no more 4 AM emails or urgent weekend messages. 
No more 4 AM emails or urgent weekend messages would be pretty great, of course.  But here is one instance where remaining vague actually rings less hollow than being specific.  Dan Neil wrote that the LA Times "has more greatness ahead of it."  No one at the LA Times is going to be sorely disappointed in 12 hours when they wake up on Saturday morning, rub their eyes, and realize that greatness has not yet come.  But those poor lawyers who worked closely with the departing law partner will totally continue to receive 4 AM emails and urgent weekend messages, just from a different master.  This is when you should be like a good lawyer or a bad boyfriend, and keep your promises vague and fuzzy.


This is how a Pulitzer winner signs off his departure email:
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
I don't know about you guys, but I got a little bit choked up by the third "thank you."  Now, I know three thank-you's --heck, even one thank-you-- is probably way too emotional for most office workers.  I remember a law firm partner reprimanding "another" first-year associate for signing a letter with "sincerely" because "lawyers are never sincere!"  She was told to use "yours truly" instead --probably because it doesn't mean anything.  

But even if you are signing off with something bland and meaningless, at least consider repeating it a few times.  Sure, it's sentimental, and horribly inefficient use of your delicate fingertips, but it's your last day at the office, and maybe, just maybe, you could indulge in a little bit of digital feeling.