Being the first to say goodbye.

For those whose goal it is to be elected partner, the reality is that only a very small percentage of associates makes it. At most of America's largest law firms, less than 10 percent of the associates who start their careers with a firm is elected partner at that same firm. At many firms, the success rate is far lower.

Associates fall off the road to partnership at different stages and for different reasons. Many are informed along the way that they don't have what the firm thinks it takes. Others are given strong hints at the same message. Either way, many associates live and work in fear of being weeded out, or being fired from their law firm.

Then there are those associates who decide that they are going to leave on their own terms rather than waiting to be fired from the law firm. With such high attrition rates at law firms, these associates often feel a bit relieved and maybe a bit smug when they are the ones who get to have the last word on their tenures. How they handle this is quite a bit different from how things are handled when the firm makes the decision to terminate the relationship.