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Should I stay or should I go? Handling a counter offer.

Embarking on your search for a new role in the law can be a time consuming and stressful experience. From drafting a CV, to preparing for interviews and negotiating an offer, the process can be draining, particularly when you are busy at work. Finally you secure a new job and hand in your notice, only to find that your current firm unexpectedly offers you more money to encourage you to stay. What do you do?

Counter offers are becoming more common, particularly in a busy market and if you are in an area such as commercial property where the talent pool is small and candidate demand high. Law firms are often poor at making their current employees feel valued – you may decide to leave due to a lack of structure, supervision or support, or because despite you exceeding targets a plea for a salary increase goes unheard.. That is until the last opportunity when you are handing in your notice and a counter-offer is made to encourage you to stay. It is hugely important at this stage not to act on impulse and take the offer without thinking about your career long term. Have you really felt valued at the firm recently or like your current role is offering you the best possible work or step in your career? Probably not if you decided to look elsewhere in the first place, so don’t be lured into a false sense of security with a cash injection when despite a favourable financial upgrade it might not be in your best interests long term to stay. Whilst you know your current firm and staying can be the easy option, is it really the best for you?

Always consider why you were looking for a new job in the first place. Are you frustrated at the quality of the work, career prospects, culture or politics? Are you eager to become more involved in business development, have a better work/life balance or move into more of a supervisory role? Money will not change other aspects of your role you are disgruntled with. It’s easy to react quickly to a counter offer, but take your time and weigh up all the factors to ensure you make the best decision for your career in the long term. After all, if you have a competing offer you are in a very strong position and can afford to take your time. The market at the moment is extremely busy, and whilst firms are eager to avoid the time and cost of replacing you, will this really make you feel valued in your position long term?

For many lawyers, frustration can come with a lack of recognition or feeling undervalued. If you are worth a pay rise when leaving, why wasn’t this recognised and acted on earlier? A new firm can often be a refreshing change and give you the boost in recognition you need. Also, now you have handed your notice in once, has the trust been lost with your current employer? There may remain an underlying feeling of separation which can never be rectified, meaning you are not fed the best quality work or considered for promotion over your colleagues who have remained loyal. All these factors need to be considered carefully. If money was your only driver for looking for a new position then maybe you are satisfied with the outcome and can move on, but if you are in demand and have firms tempting you with something new then don’t be rushed in deciding.

Despite the increase in salary most lawyers who accept a counter offer find themselves looking for a new role a few months later in any event, meaning by then you may have burnt your bridges with new firms you have already interviewed with and turned down. We are here to advise you on how to handle a counter offer and the questions to consider before making a decision. Acting too quickly and being tempted by cash may be easy at the time, but could well influence you career to your detriment going forward.

For further information contact Louisa Phillips or visit our website BCL Legal.

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