How Do I Gracefully Leave My Law Firm That’s Underpaying Me?

Dear E. Jean:I want to live with my lovely boyfriend! Unfortunately, we’re in different cities, and I’m an underpaid junior lawyer.

Backstory: Despite my bargaining, I receive a lower salary than my male colleagues, who are entrusted with less important legal work. I complete more complex tasks, and yet the firm won’t pay me commensurate with industry standards. I’m quite close to the partners, and they are vocal about me being with the firm long-term and becoming a partner. One of them even jokingly threatened that he would kill my boyfriend if he was the reason I moved back to the big city.

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I am adored and given important legal work, yet I am overworked and underpaid. (No wonder the firm has serious staff-retention issues!) How do I leave this position in the nicest possible way? Is the best method simply to blame it on the long-distance relationship and my boyfriend’s inflexible career? I’m worried about burning bridges and angering my mentor. —Staying Friendly

Friendly, My Tree Frog: If your law firm “adored” you, it would pay you. (I adore you, of course, so at least there’s that.) Do a favor for yourself and for every woman looking for a job. Tell the truth to those dribbling, low-grade, small-town misogynists you work for: You’re leaving because you’re not paid the same as the male associates.

Note: Yeeee gods! How I would have loved to have advised you to screw it and get in their faces! But a cool, resilient, urbane, tough, debonair woman who charms everyone with her feminine power and gives a brace of Cuban cigars to each of the partners and a box of Callaway Chrome Soft golf balls to her mentor—with a handwritten note of thanks, acknowledging the greatness of the firm while stating her “disappointment” in its antediluvian salaries (without the soppy boyfriend excuse)—will enjoy one of the greatest careers ever witnessed.

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