The Counter Offer - Things to Consider

It has always been a challenge for law firms to attract good lawyers, and this is even more difficult when a member of the team finds a new job elsewhere and hands in their notice. All of a sudden the stable team is disrupted and there is a pressing need to find a replacement lawyer.

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.

The firm will normally have 3 months to find a replacement due to the 3 month notice period most lawyers are required to give their employer. Even so, given the disruption and difficulty in finding a new lawyer, it is little surprise that the firm will do their best to discourage the lawyer from leaving. One option open to them is to make the person handing in their notice a counter offer. In other words; offer them a salary increase to persuade them to stay.

It is therefore important that every candidate should be prepared for the scenario from the very beginning of their job search. This is something we discuss from an early stage.

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.

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.