8 things to ask a longtime coworker before they retire

When a long-standing coworker retires from a law firm, their colleagues should take the opportunity to learn everything they can. Here's how to make the most of the time you have with your knowledgeable colleagues before they leave.

When a long-standing coworker retires from a law firm, their colleagues should take the opportunity to recognize the value that someone with years of experience has, and also attempt to learn everything they can from them before they go. Here are 8 things you should talk to a longtime coworker about before they retire:

#1: Have you gained any specific knowledge or developed any procedures that I should know about?

Longtime employees typically have formed strong relationships within the firm, giving them a deep understanding of how their job impacts the work of others. If your firm’s policies or procedures don’t encourage knowledge-sharing with other employees, knowledge silos can result. Avoid this by encouraging your retiring coworker to share their knowledge or document processes or procedures that were specific to their job.

#2: How do I contact professionals that you trust for assistance?

Knowing how to get in touch with the right people for things you need can be a great time-saver, and can also provide much-needed continuity at a time when the firm is adjusting to the loss of a longtime, valued employee. Contact information for reliable vendors, court reporters, investigators, experts, and consultants can keep cases running smoothly and moving forward.

#3: Are there any templates or forms that you think I might find useful?

Why reinvent the wheel? If your retiring coworker has a bank of forms at their disposal, ask for access to them. Templates and fillable forms are a tremendous timesaver for most law firms, facilitate continuity, and help ensure that documents contain all the pertinent and necessary information.

#4: Do you recommend any strategies for success after you’re gone?

If you will be taking on the duties of your longtime coworker, chances are others in the office enjoyed working with them too and might even resent that their friend is leaving and that you will be taking over. In this situation, ask your retiring colleague if they have any tips regarding office dynamics, who might make or break your success, and any unwritten rules you’ll need to know about to have the best chance to succeed in your new role.

#5: Can I contact you with questions after your retirement?

While some retiring employees want nothing more to do with their former employer, most legal professionals want to help in any way they can. Ask them if they’d be interested in a quick call or lunch date once in a while so you can pick their brain. Most will consider the request a compliment and will be happy to assist and keep a friendship that was forged at work intact.

#6: What should I expect during the “handover” process?

There is nothing worse than having to deal with an issue about which you were never informed. If you are taking on a share (or the full load) of your retiring colleague’s work, try to have an in-depth conversation with them about how the transition will proceed. This will help you view their departure in a professional, positive light and help you move forward in their absence.

#7: Do you have any words of wisdom that you’d like to share?

Anyone who has worked as a legal professional for an extended period will undoubtedly have insight that those new to the industry haven’t yet had the chance to develop. If your colleague is willing, seek them out for some words of encouragement regarding unique problems or aspects of their job that others might not fully understand. They likely have a wealth of information about how to survive (and thrive) in the ever-changing, demanding legal industry.

#8: How about a farewell lunch?

Last impressions are just as important as the first ones. Whether or not you have work-related questions for your retiring coworker, don’t forget to keep in touch – retirement doesn’t have to be the end of your relationship. Have a farewell lunch together to end on a positive note and make one last memory together.

As your law firm bids farewell to the knowledgeable people who have helped it to succeed for so long, consider what you will want to take away–and have taken away–from your time together.

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