Emails and Quitting: What to Do About Your Email When You Leave a Job

work email etiquette when you quit2017 Update: We still stand by this advice on what to do about your email when you leave a job — links have also been updated below. 

What do you do with your company email after you quit your job?  When you go on vacation, most of you probably set up an out-of-office message to tell anyone who sends you an email that you’ll be back soon — but do you do an OOO message for when you’ve quit? Reader M is heading to a new firm and wonders what will happen to incoming messages after she’s gone:

I am an attorney and am leaving my firm next week to go to a new firm. I conduct a lot of email correspondence with not only opposing counsel(s), but clients and vendors. It is not possible for me to notify everybody I correspond with that I am leaving, but my fear is they will email me after I leave and get no response. Is there a way for me to fix this problem? Should I post an autoreply? If so, what should it say? I don’t think my firm will pull down my email address immediately.

We’ve talked about how to quit gracefully, and what to say in a maternity leave email, but we haven’t covered goodbye or “I no longer work here” messages. I’m curious what the readers say here, because I suspect this is going to vary widely by company, as well as maybe region and practice area. Some ideas:

  • Call HR and ask their advice. Their words will trump anything I or anyone else here will say.
  • Call your IT team and see where your emails will go after you leave. Will they be forwarded to another attorney? To your secretary? To no one? (This is good to know in general, so that you can avoid your Zappos order confirmations ending up in someone else’s inbox… yet another good reason to separate your work/personal lives!)
  • If all else fails, yes, I’d say the default here is to set up an autoresponder reply. Use something simple like “Thank you for reaching out! As of ___, Reader M has left the firm. Please call 212-555-1234 for more information on who is handling this matter.” If you have a secretary who can handle this kind of query, I’d include his or her number — otherwise I’d consider just putting the main phone number for your firm.

Readers, how do you usually see this dealt with? What do you think are “best practices” for dealing with email correspondence from people outside the firm after you’ve left?

Pictured: 20_17_01, originally uploaded to Flickr by Jordan Dawe.

What should you do with your email when you quit your job? A reader wondered whether she should notify all of her clients, or set up a general "I've left the company" email, or what?



  1. Diana Barry :

    When I left, prior to leaving I sent an email to all of my contacts with my phone number and new work email. I didn’t talk to IT or HR about whether people would get a bounce-back email and for how long.

  2. Mint green ballet flats :

    I think most firms set their own bounce-back. I believe for risk management purposes they can’t just have emails to a deactivated account met with silence (and no notification that nobody has read the email).

    • Mint green ballet flats :

      This is for law firms though. No idea about other companies.

      • Yes, I’m sure the firm/company/agency will take care of this to make sure your e-mails are directed to whomever is taking over your work.

  3. MiddleCoast :

    I work for a governmental agency – we have the email bounceback with a message stating “John Smith is no longer with Agency Name. If you need help, please contact Mary Jones at…..”

    We also shut down voice mail immediately and have all direct dial phone calls forward to the receptionist. We do this for a minimum of three months, and then until we need the phone number for someone else.

    • My agency does this with federal employees, but not on-site contractors, even when they have been there forever and have a government email address. We had a problem with this recently.

  4. On this note – I’m putting out a leaflet trying to get some tutoring work this summer. I was going to put my professional and my university email on it. My professional email is initials.surname blah blah blah while my university email is initialsnumbers blah blah blah – so less obviously me (hence putting my professional email on too).

    Does that sound like a good plan? I wanted to put my university email on as a way to reinforce my academic credentials/ prove that I do actually go there & exist.

    • I would just list your university email. If you’re mostly targeting other students at your university, they are probably familiar with the [email protected] format and won’t be worried that it isn’t you. I can’t see any reason to list two email addresses and the university email is definitely better than the professional one IMO.

  5. My bigger concern with respect to emails would be for clients, unless you’re the only person dealing with opposing counsel. I think a bounce back that says something similar to Kat’s suggestion is a good idea, at least for a couple months.

  6. Assuming your office doesn’t have a default, I’d go with a simple “Thank you for your email. As of XYZ date, I am no longer with XYZ company. If you need immediate assistance, please contact XYZ at phone or email.”

    • When I was “let go”, the form e-mail that people saw if they still wrote me was hideous. It said “As of January 31, 2014, Nora XXX left the firm to pursue other opportunities.” In fact, I left the firm only because they told me I was fired effective January 31, 2014. They are real jerks!

      • Blonde Lawyer :

        You very well could have worked at my last firm. The firm wide emails about “X left the firm to pursue other opportunities” happened ALL THE TIME and we all knew what they meant. I thought it was obnoxious.

      • Well, they have to tell people you’re not in the job anymore, and “left to pursue other opportunities” actually suggests that you quit, which is what I’d like my professional contacts to believe. I’d prefer that to “XXX is no longer with the firm.”

    • This is what I did when I left my last job.

  7. At my firm, someone else gets access to your email after you leave for 90 days or so to monitor it (and sometimes that starts before you leave). Then, there’s an automessage that you are no longer at the firm that starts when you leave.

  8. Assuming HR/IT don’t have a different default, I’d use the suggested response, with the addition of updated contact info for reaching me directly. “If you need to reach Reader M, she is available at [personal email or phone number].” When I left my last job, my bounceback email included my new employer and work email address, but that wouldn’t always be appropriate–it sounds like it wouldn’t be for Reader M.

  9. I would assume this is the responsibility of your manager. When I left my last job, we were fortunate that my replacement was already onsite and had been trained. We just set up an autoforward so that she would receive the messages that had been intended for me. (A good reason to keep personal matters, shopping, etc., OFF your company email.)

  10. Not a lawyer :

    This topic is so timely! I have a follow-up question, and hope I’m not posting too late to benefit from the wisdom of the Hive.
    I resigned this week from Company A in Industry X, and have accepted a position in Industry Y (complete departure from Industry X). Company A mandates that prior to our last day, we set an OOO in Outlook. I’m stuck for the wording. Lay-offs are very common in Industry X, so I would like to make it clear that I “left to pursue other opportunities and here is the name/# for your new contact person” but don’t want it to sound canned. Any thoughts or should I stick with canned?

    • Just stick with canned; honestly, people change jobs all the time so I wouldn’t think twice about why someone left and really just want to know who else to contact about the matter.

    • Might want to swallow your pride here. ;) I can’t think of a way to write the OoO without either saying exactly what your new job is (and thereby implicitly encouraging the e-mailer to contact you there instead) or sounding like you are trying too hard to hide that you were in fact canned.

      For reference, I quit, and my OoO was something like “Thank you for your e-mail. I no longer work at Company A. Please contact [Boss] at [Contact Info] if you need any assistance.”

      I once received an OoO where the “sender” said he was happy to finally be free of the living hell that was his job at Company A. So he clearly left of his own free will, but I wasn’t sad to see him go. (He was pretty casual and careless even before he quit.)

  11. Persephony Mulberry :

    I would be surprised if your firm doesn’t have a procedure for handling your email built into its exit process, unless they’re very small, maybe? I’m in a small company in another industry and part of my job is redirecting your phone and email (and resetting your passwords) as soon as you exit the premises for the last time. I concur with Kat’s suggestion to contact HR or IT and find out what the standard practice is.

  12. At my company (specialty chemicals), email and voicemail is deactivated on your last day and the computer is wiped 1 week later, which gives the person’s boss enough time to get any necessary files.

    As others have mentioned, this should be covered in the exit process.

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