Since the recession, the legal industry has seen the creation of a skills gap which has resulted in, as the market picked up, a shortage of suitably experienced candidates for an increasing number of roles in areas such as residential property, real estate and corporate/commercial.

Firms have not been able to grow their own lawyers at a sufficiently quick rate to satisfy demand and the knock on effect has been a job market where good quality lawyers often find themselves with multiple opportunities with firms fighting for their talent and experience.

In circumstances like this a “counter offer” from their current firm is something that every candidate should be prepared for from the very beginning of their job search.

Thornton Legal find that on just about every occasion where a candidate hands their notice in, the disgruntled firm tries, sometimes successfully, to counter offer their employee and prevent them leaving.

Firms are aware that the cost of hiring a replacement person can be high, not to mention the costs associated with having a position empty for any period, resulting in a fall in revenue or an added burden on the remaining members of the team who are often reallocated work.

Some candidates enter the recruitment process hoping that their current employer makes such a counter offer, for others it can be the last thing they were expecting.

Either way, the decision whether to stay or go can be a daunting one but our experience at Thornton Legal is that the vast majority of accepted counter offers ultimately fail to satisfy the candidate and they find themselves re-entering the job market a little further down the line.

Why is this and why are counter offers a tricky thing to navigate?

There are a number of factors but the common themes are:

If you’re worth it now, why did it take you to hand your notice in to force their hand?

If a person is worth the increased salary or promotion that comes with the counter offer, the firm in question really should have rewarded their employee earlier. Candidates are often flattered to receive a counter offer, but they should really be asking the question why they were undervalued for such a long time in the first place and whether their current firm is the right place for them to satisfy their ambitions in the long run.

It’s often not just about the money

Other motivating factors often play a significant factor in why candidates look elsewhere in the first place: work life balance, commute, promotion prospects, firm culture and quality of work can be lacking. Accepting a counter offer just for the money can be a temporary sticking plaster that doesn’t solve any of the other underlying issues.

Staying can cause resentment/trust/loyalty issues

It’s an understated problem that once a lawyer looks elsewhere, in the minds of their firm, even if they stay, the bonds of trust and loyalty can be broken and never fully heal. This problem is circumstance specific and doesn’t occur every time but can be an issue that rears its head and is often difficult to resolve.

Does the salary increase price you out of a future move?

Staying at a firm for a big pay rise whilst useful in the short term can affect a lawyer’s position in the job market further down the line. Hefty hikes in salary can put candidates in an artificially high position that they find difficult to justify when they eventually look to move and can put some potential employers off.

Thornton Legal are at hand at every stage of the process when it comes to providing clear, pragmatic and focused advice to lawyers entering the job market. We are only too happy to speak out of hours to candidates on a confidential basis and give them sensible advice, tailored to their individual circumstances.

If you are a lawyer that would like to explore the job market in the North West, Yorkshire or Midlands, we would be only too happy to help.

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Thornton Legal is a leading legal recruitment company, recruiting for legal jobs in Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Chester and Preston. We are passionate about providing a professional, innovative and reliable legal recruitment service that is focused on quality and ensures our clients are matched with the strongest legal talent available. Contact one of our legal recruitment consultants today on 0151 307 5757 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to see what we can do for your law firm or legal career.