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Counter offers – “too little, too late”?

The Recruitment Grapevine ran an article this week which featured statistics indicating that counter offers are becoming more common in specialised fields of work, despite concerns about employees’ long term commitments to their jobs. Interestingly however many counter offers are “too little, too late”.

The article which covered Tech, Construction & Engineering and Legal professionals found that, in the UK, one in seven workers in the 25 to 44 age bracket have been made counter offers, compared to less than one per cent for 18 to 24 year olds and six percent for those over 55.

The need for more experienced employees has resulted in managers trying to hold on to their workers, but many employees feel that this is “too little, too late”, and the counter offer is seen as evidence that they have been underpaid previously.

This is especially evident in the Tech industry, where one in five professionals says that they have been given counter offers. Interestingly, over half of those have admitted that they would leave in under a year if they accepted.

Other industries which have been affected by the upswing are Construction & Engineering professionals and Legal professionals, where 21% and 18% of workers have been given counter offers, respectively.

Workers have commented that they would need a pay rise of a fifth of their current salary in order to stay in their jobs, but often more deep-rooted problems in the workplace cannot be resolved by a pay-rise.

BCL Legal – Opinion

As an In-house Legal Recruitment Consultant, I have seen first hand the increase in counter offers and the potential challenges that this brings to a recruitment process. Not least, the risk that a preferred candidate could be lost from a recruitment process, incurring extra delays and cost as an alternative is sought.

In some respects I am lucky that I recruit in-house lawyers. For many Legal professionals the opportunity to work in-house is very appealing and they have a specific desire to make the move across. Consequently, at the junior-to-mid level, or where someone has not worked in-house before, the risk of a counter offer is somewhat reduced. When a lawyer is looking to make their first move in-house, an improved salary/package from their current private practice employer will not sway them. The drive to work in industry or commerce is too strong.

On the other hand, when lawyers are moving from one in-house role to another, or for that matter from one law firm to another, the risk of a counter offer is significantly increased. As the article states, for Legal professional circa 18% of candidates are made counter offers. This is particularly noticeable at the circa 5-15 years’ PQE level where quality talent is short supply.

It is often said that those who accept a counter offer will likely be looking again within 12 months, and it is true. For many the underlying reason(s) for looking are not resolved and the additional money provides only a temporary fix. Unless the counter offer includes a promotion or variation of role, many candidates find that nothing has changed and the urge to move resurfaces. By accepting a counter offer from their current employer, many are simply postponing the inevitable.

As a lawyer candidate it is important to consider the prospect of a counter offer before you even being your search. You should review your reasons for looking and then determine if there is another option besides changing employer. Wasting your time and the time of potential employers does not make sense if an internal conversation can improve your situation. This is particularly relevant if more money, a promotion, or flexible working – common counter offers – can make you happy.

If the root cause of your disquiet is money then why not ask your boss for a raise, if it’s a location or commuting issue then consider asking about home or flexible working, and if it’s a lack of development opportunities then you should enquire how you can upskill or be promoted?

As a specialist Legal Recruitment Consultancy, BCL Legal is on hand to provide career advice and job opportunities for Legal professionals across the UK. If you are contemplating a change and wish to discuss your options, please do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist consultants. We are happy to discuss your options and to provide relevant advice from our many years of experience in the legal sector.

For more information please contact Craig Wilson or visit our website BCL Legal.

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