Your word is your bond - counteroffers
Posted 18 Dec 2015 by Toby Williamson
Most lawyers give careful consideration to making a career
move. They think about the fundamental reasons behind why they are looking to
move and what they want from a new role. Usually a move centres around one or more
of the following:
- Future career prospects / progression
Work / Life balance
Lack of support
Type or quality of work
Relocation / location
Usually the next step is to speak to a recruitment agent or
apply for roles that are advertised by firms directly. Applications turn into
interviews and interviews turn into offers of employment. Accepting an offer of
employment is a contractual obligation, which as a lawyer should not be entered
into unless you are one hundred percent committed.
Then comes the difficult bit. You meet with your current
firm and explain that for various reasons you want to leave and take up an
offer of employment elsewhere. Some firms get angry, make you clear your desk
and show you the door. Some firms accept your resignation and make you work
your notice in an awkward atmosphere. Some firms refuse to accept your
resignation and try and persuade you to stay. This is what is known as a
counter-offer or ‘buy back’.
Obviously legal recruitment agents have a vested interest in you
moving – it is how we earn our money.
But put that to one side for a minute and think. If you have
a good relationship with your firm and wanted more money / flexibility / support
surely you would go and speak to them and request that before embarking on
interviews with other firms? If you have not then maybe your relationship with
them is not that great. If you did and they refused where has the sudden change
of heart come from?
It comes from fear and panic. They thought you would never
leave. Now you are.
Your current firm now has a problem. They have the
disruption (and possibly embarrassment) of you leaving them coupled with the
prospect of having to recruit a replacement (which could be time consuming and
expensive). Add into that the prospect of them asking remaining staff to pick
up your slack in the interim while they recruit and you can see it is not a
very palatable prospect.
So they throw money and/or promises at you / more support,
training, promote you, pay you more, let you work from home / flexibly. You are
flattered. Better the devil you know – you did not realise how much they valued
So you stay – it is the easiest thing to do. It makes your
3 months later (and we see it so, so often) you are being
fobbed off – yes we will get support for you, leave it with us……. We are
looking into IT for flexible working, leave it with us..., yes we will have
a meeting about passing you some better quality work, leave it with us...
You regret not having seen the move through. You contact the
recruitment agency. Your dream job that you accepted has now been filled by
Always think about the reasons you wanted to move at the
start of the process and how you felt then. Sometimes firms do make the changes
you wanted and it works out. Having worked in legal recruitment for over 15
years and seen lawyers tempted by numerous buy back / counteroffer situations I
can honestly say that that is the exception rather than the rule.
As a lawyer your word is your bond. If you are unhappy then
speak to your current firm. If they cannot resolve things for you at that stage
then start the interview / recruitment process off. When you get an offer and
accept it – be professional and strong enough to be a lawyer of your word.