How to deal with Counter-Offers

Lawyer writing notes and using computer

Why you have to be careful when made a counter-offer.

In many ways, it can be seen as flattering. You’ve gone through the process of meeting with new firms and partners. You’ve performed better in the interviews and tests than any of the competition. And, you’ve been offered the job. Well done! The offer is a financial step up with good quality work. It’s what you want. There’s no reason not to accept it.

You have one last major thing to do. Resign! You tell your current boss that you have found a new job and you’re accepting! And your boss, instead of saying ‘well done, we’re sorry to see you go’ says ‘why don’t we discuss it before you make your final decision.’

Didn’t see that coming! Or did you? Now, your boss has your attention and can potentially throw any of the following enticements at you:

What would it take to keep you here?

Why don’t we discuss raising your salary?

What is the offer you’ve received? We can try and match it.

Let’s discuss your future here. We have big plans for you. You’re an integral part of the team.

Why would you choose [them] over us?

It’s understandable to feel flattered that they want to keep you. But, there are deeper concerns that you should be aware of before you make what is usually a career mistake.

1. The underlying reason/culture hasn’t changed.

Presumably, there were a number of factors that led you to start looking elsewhere in the first place. Those factors will invariably be one (or a mix) of the following: you want a step up, there are no career opportunities, you’re not getting enough variety, you’re not getting enough client exposure, you want to be part of a bigger/smaller sized team, you don’t like the culture of the business or you’re not being paid enough.

Just because you resign and your boss panics (and that’s exactly what a counter is), does not mean that any of these reasons have changed. Far from it. Receiving assurances from your boss is simply a tactic.

2. Why did it take a resignation for them to suddenly take notice and make assurances?

Most of us want to feel valued. It’s important that the senior members of a team or firm thank and acknowledge you for your effort and results. But, if prior to resigning, you are driven enough to meet other firms and see it all the way through to offer stage, there must be deep rooted reasons that have led you to this point.

In many instances, employees have tried to broach some of these concerns with partners and had zero success in changing anything. If it took a resignation for them to make you feel valued, there is a big problem!

3. Your commitment will be in question. You’re not loyal. And you can be bought!

Once the excitement of the counter-offer has passed your boss and the partners will now be aware that you have considered leaving. That demonstrates that you are not committed to the firm. In the Legal profession, partners like you to demonstrate loyalty. You’ve shown the exact opposite. They also know that you can be bought. That isn’t a trait that they will particularly respect.

4. If things get tough, you’ll be first to get cut.

Because the partners know that you are uncommitted to what they stand for and their values, when the market turns (and we’ve yet to see exactly what the Post-Brexit City looks like) and they have to make tough decisions, they will try and reward and look after those that have been loyal (and are probably cheaper than you). You are now neither of these!

5. You’re probably getting your next pay rise early.

If the counter-offer has come down to a financial increase, which it invariably does, where do you think that increase has come from? Why couldn’t you have had it 6-12 months ago? Put simply, it is most likely your next pay rise early.

This is fine until you realise that it will just delay your next pay rise. As above, the partners were never going to just throw money at you. They just wanted you to think they were. They are a business after all and will not tolerate a gun to their head.

6. Statistically, you’ll still leave within the year, not always of your own volition.

It’s well documented that if you accept a counter-offer you are highly likely to leave the firm within 6-12 months. Whilst it is difficult to find ‘actual’ statistics on this, from our own research, it is certainly the case.

As above, often you’ll find that once the partners have got out of you what they wanted (e.g. see through a project to the end, stay until a maternity leaver returns, or are generally busy themselves with no time to recruit your replacement) you might find that if work levels slow down or the market goes quiet, you might be encouraged to move on.

7. Remember, it’s easier, cheaper and less hassle for them to keep you in the short term than hire, pay for and train a new starter.

This is often the biggest reason for a partner to make a counter-offer and look to keep you on. If you do leave, they have to re-evaluate the group. They might also come under scrutiny from their peers as to why the group is an unhappy ship!

As such, they usually have to review what level they need to replace you at, if at all, draft a new job description, liaise with HR and various recruitment consultants, review CVs, take time out of the day to interview multiple prospective candidates multiple times, engage members of the firm in other areas to help with interviews, get sign-off and then pay a recruitment fee at the end of it. If they can give a quarter of that fee to you and you decide to stay, of course, they will try. You’re now the cheap option!

This is a topic that comes up time and again. And rarely do the reasons for the outcomes change. One of the best ways to ensure that you make the right decision is to have a good consultant on hand. If you want to talk through this, find a consultant you can trust. They’ll be objective and help you make the right decision.

CaterJay Legal | Legal Consultants and Recruitment Specialists in London