Why you should never accept a legal counter offer

Written by: Faith Kelly
Published on: 28 Oct 2019

Have you been offered a counter offer and are unsure what to do next? Sellick Partnership legal recruitment specialist Faith Kelly discusses why she thinks counter offers rarely work and gives her reasons why legal candidates should consider their options carefully before accepting one.

Every day I speak with candidates that have made the decision to leave their place of work and I offer advice on how best to tackle the jobs market. The process then usually follows a very specific path whereby a candidate makes the decision to leave, takes time to research the market and available jobs, applies for a selection of roles and makes the decision to formally hand in their notice – which is often the most challenging aspect of changing jobs.

Once you have resigned, it will feel like a weight has been lifted, and should be an incredibly exciting time. However, it can turn quite stressful if the situation is not handled well. Your current employer will likely be shocked that you have decided to leave, and if you are a valued member of the team, will want to do all they can to keep you. This can involve anything from a promotion to a salary increase, generally referred to as a counter offer.

Receiving a counter offer

It is completely natural to feel flattered at this stage, but it is important to remember your real reasons for leaving your current firm, and to think about whether or not the counter offer is right for you. Generally, you will not be leaving your current place of work simply because the salary is too low; there will likely be other factors leading to your decision, and it is important to keep these at the front of your mind.

Here are the reasons you should never accept a counter offer:

Money isn’t everything: the majority of candidates accept a counter offer because they are taken by surprise when their current firm offers them a significant increase on their current salary. In my time as a recruiter I have experienced various counter offers, which ranges from a few thousand pounds to over £10,000.

Declining a huge pay rise is never easy but you must ask yourself ‘why was I not being paid that before?’ If your current firm can afford to pay you this then they should not suddenly realise your worth because your resignation letter has fallen on their desk. If the future firm has offered an impressive package to start with then they have recognised your value/worth from the beginning. You should therefore look at the potential of your future career path at the new firm, rather than staying with the firm that has been underpaying you for so long.

You should also consider that with an increase in salary, comes a stop to pay reviews and bonuses for the foreseeable future at your current firm. It isn’t likely you will receive another pay rise or promotion for a long time if they have dramatically increased your pay during a counter offer.

They want to avoid a lengthy recruitment process: replacing you will take up a lot of time, effort and money. To recruit someone else into your position, your employer will need time to agree a job specification, organise the job advertisement and contact recruitment agencies.

Damaged trust is hard to mend: once you resign, the trust between you and your boss is unfortunately damaged. From the day you hand in your notice, your commitment to the firm could always be in question. This may impact things in the future, for example if you were looking to progress at the firm. Accepting a counter offer therefore could harm your chances of progression, chances that a new firm will likely be able to offer you from the start.

Remember your reasons for leaving: accepting a counter offer rarely solves the factors that drove you to search for a new job in the first place. Apart from an immediate change in money, it is impossible to suddenly change the culture, workload, benefits or location of the firm you are working for. It is important to never let money control your decision, and always remember your reasons for looking for a new opportunity – it won’t always be just about money.

It’s too late: if the main reason was work/life balance and your firm didn’t want to accommodate your needs or compromise, then it’s too late to offer it as part of a counter offer. If they weren’t keen to support you then, they are only doing it now in an attempt to keep you. Company policy may not truly support you once you work flexible hours, it will feel evident to you and it may not last. If they don’t do it for everyone, it could cause awkwardness in the workplace.

Counter offers rarely work out: in our experience, the majority of candidates that accept a counter offer are back on the market looking for new roles within 6-9 months. Often, individuals accept a counter offer because job searching is difficult and you are out of your comfort zone. If your firm can see this, they will do what they can to keep you. We always advise people to not enter into the resignation conversation if they are not 100% sure on their decision.

What next?

Everybody knows resigning isn’t easy. Here at Sellick Partnership, we make sure everybody in this situation gets the advice and tips they need to ensure a smooth process.  If you have any questions about the resignation process or need assistance in any way, please get in touch.

If you would like help with your legal job search, or are interested in a new legal job, get in touch with me or head over to our jobs page.

Alternatively, for more advice on managing your resignation, contact me directly.