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As the legal recruitment market continues to be short of specialist candidates across highly sought after disciplines, such as commercial property, corporate and construction, it is no wonder that firms are going that extra mile to counter-offer solicitors and legal executives who resign. But should you really allow your firm to buy you back? The simple answer is ‘No’ – for the following reasons.
You had a reason to look for a new job, a reason to leave your current employer and a reason to better your career. It is all very flattering when you go to resign and are suddenly made to feel irreplaceable by a firm you have spent several months or years working for and who you want to feel placed value on you and, of course, unless the main reason you are leaving is a personality clash, you are likely to be resigning to someone you class as a colleague and friend and someone who you are likely to hold in high esteem. It is not easy to resign in these circumstances, especially when the old heart strings are tugged at, and you are suddenly made to feel like the best thing since sliced bread.
I am not saying that the firm do not value the contribution you have made, however the brutal truth is that it is far cheaper (in time and money) to offer you a few thousand pounds more to stay than it is for them to recruit and train someone up to replace you, teaching them the firm’s processes, introducing them to clients, etc. Buying you back is usually a knee jerk reaction and the quickest way to resolve their immediate problem. However, if you had to resign to be offered this pay increase, why didn’t your firm value you enough to offer it to you before? When it is time for your annual pay review, it is more likely than not that you will not receive as much as you would have done otherwise, or even any pay rise at all now, as you have already received a salary increase when you were bought back.
Then there are far more far reaching ramifications of your having once resigned. Your loyalty to the firm has now been put in question and your relationship with your firm is never going to be the same again. If there were fundamental reasons that were strong enough for you to seek another job a few months ago, surely they must still exist? Once the dust has settled and your firm realise that you are safely back in the fold, everything will, on the face of it, return to normal, but unfortunately for you, things have now been fundamentally altered beneath the surface. You might find that you are no longer getting some of the juicer deals, your client contact is slowly diminished, exciting new work and clients are going to your colleagues because, in the firm’s eyes, they are now protecting their position and no longer trust you explicitly not to resign again and head off to a competitor. You might suddenly be overlooked for that promotion and, yes, that is often the promotion you were promised when you were bought back 6 months’ before but, as the firm will tell you now, unfortunately the situation has changed.
If I had received £10 for every time I forewarned a candidate not to accept a counter-offer, which they subsequently did, only to have them call me in 6 months’ time saying that the same issues still existed and this time they definitely wanted to leave, I would be a very rich person. But of course that dream job they had accepted and were so looking forward to will have now been filled by somebody else and, what is more, that firm will probably be no longer interested in considering them again as they have shown themselves to be unreliable.
I always say to candidates that when you go to resign, you will get one of three reactions. The first is ‘Goodbye and good luck!’ and a cardboard box and you are asked to put all your belongings in it and you are drop-kicked out of the door immediately. The second is the acceptance of your resignation but the firm saying that they would like you to work your notice (by the way, always bear in mind that the firm is highly likely to view your notice period as time within which to try and buy you back). The third and final reaction is the ‘Please don’t go’, ‘We can’t survive without you’ and the Senior Partner you have never seen for years is wheeled out to further emphasise the point. This is the hardest reaction to handle, however you must remain strong and remember why you have reached this point and are handing your notice in in the first place because, it might surprise you to learn, it is more likely than not that your boss, the person offering you the counter-offer, would actually be resigning if they were in your shoes, as they can see that the position you are moving on to makes perfect sense to further your career. Nine times out of ten, the only reason they want you to stay is that it will make their life much easier, it has nothing to do with what is best for you.