Mary Nowell
Mary Nowell
Managing Director: Private Practice

Articles From the Team

Managing a counteroffer after resignation

The legal market is extremely busy at the moment, which is fantastic news if you’re a job seeker, but it means employers pull out all the stops in a move to retain their employees.

It’s flattering to receive a counteroffer and it can feel like a tricky time as existing loyalties are often at play. To help you put a counteroffer into perspective, it’s important to consider the reasons why an employer goes about making one. (Sorry to disappoint, but there's usually an overriding commercial reason.)

Some of the implications of losing an employee include…

Loss of time and money 

Replacing you is an expensive process. On top of the significant time investment in finding the right person, sometimes there are recruitment fees.

Rebuilding skill-sets

You know and understand the nuances of your law firm. From basic elements like how the case system works to the particular requirements of the partner you work for. Retraining is time-consuming and costly. In this market, your employer will recognise there’s a skills shortage and it’ll be hard to find a replacement.


Your departure can create a sense of instability within the team. Is the grass greener on the other side? To make a move, you’ve obviously thought so and because of this, others may question whether they can achieve more elsewhere.

Blog: navigating the 'break-up' conversation

How the counteroffer plays out

Partners and/or HR will often appeal to your sense of loyalty and engage in more than a little flattery. Immediately, you’ll become “too valuable to lose” and the promotion that was hinted at in your last appraisal is suddenly on offer. Remember that pay increase you asked for (and didn’t receive)? Well, now you find yourself with the promise of new riches (sometimes an immediate increase). This is tempting and exciting but there are many negatives that come from a counteroffer. 

  • A change in the relationship between you and your manager. I’ve spoken to lawyers in the past who have cited a perceived lack of loyalty or a lack of trust from their manager post-resignation.
  • The underlying issues remain. Once the glean of a pay rise wears off you find the next promotion is, again, allusive and further pay rises are out of reach. You soon find that the impact of the pay rise is less so and you’re left questioning future prospects. If your desire to leave is linked to the culture of the firm, will this change?
  • 80 per cent of those who accept a counteroffer leave or are terminated within six to 12 months. Of the 80 per cent, over half reinitiate their job search within three months.

 So, what advice can I give you?

  • When you accept a new role, ensure you’re committed to it. Market conditions dictate the pace of the recruitment process; at the moment it’s moving quickly so it isn't a good time to test the water.
  • Understand that the issues that made you consider a move in the first place will remain - regardless of a pay increase.
  • The short-term cash gain (as a result of the counteroffer) might not be as attractive in the long term.
  • Remember the impact your resignation will have on your manager. For this reason, don’t use your resignation as a negotiation tool. Only resign if you want to leave!
  • Consider the bigger picture and the new opportunity, as well as the commitment of the new employer (to get you onboard).
  • Don’t burn bridges. Be clear and consistent in your communication with all parties.
  • Whether you decide to accept or decline a counteroffer, ensure you have all the facts at hand, so the decision to stay or go is an informed one.

A good legal recruiter helps you negotiate the minefield of searching for a new role and the inevitable and tricky resignation process that comes with it.

Get ahead on the Career ladder

Search our Jobs Today!

Search Jobs