How Do You Handle a Counter-offer?

Counter-offers happen often, especially when the market is competitive and new hires are hard to find. So, what should you do when you receive one?

What is a Counter-offer?

If you haven’t come across one before, here’s a scenario to explain what counter-offers are. As you hand in your notice to let your employer know you are leaving the firm, they will put together a package to attract you to stay in your current role. This is usually incentivised by way of promotion or salary increase. You have your reasons for leaving and you have put a lot of work into finding a new role at another firm. It sounds crazy that your employer waits until you say, “I’m off!” to show appreciation for what you do. But remember, once you are gone there will be a big hole in the team or department which will need filling.

Don’t be Flattered by Counter-offers

When they happen, counter-offers can often be perceived as flattering. But the reality is that they are nothing short of misleading. Imagine if for a long time you have felt under-appreciated in your role or team or you feel you are being underpaid compared to others. All of a sudden, once a counter-offer comes your way, you are experiencing much more ‘love’ from your employer than you’re used to.

During periods of counter-offers, a firm may well go above and beyond showing their appreciation. But the danger is, if you accept the counter-offer and all the admiration, once the offer period has died down, you’ll likely find yourself back in the very same situation you were originally: unhappy and undervalued. Although you might have your new pay rise, you may also be cast out on a limb for wanting to leave in the first place.

Miracles Rarely Happen

It is important to remember that the original issues very rarely change. When I am having initial conversations with candidates who are first starting to look at the market, I always ask whether they have tried to resolve any issues they have with their manager. Certain things such as flexible hours, home-working and salary increases can be changed.

But the issues which affect you emotionally are much more deep-rooted and will rarely change even with a remuneration package increase. They might even be issues which you don’t feel comfortable sharing with your manager. It is a big step to pick up the phone and call a legal recruiter to discuss career options, but it is a weight off the mind to be able to discuss such career concerns with an impartial third party.

It Comes Down to Money

There’s a simple equation in all of this and that is the cost of hiring vs the counter-offer. In the legal market especially, it is difficult to hire most practice areas. While I have been working in legal recruitment, it is clear firms have struggled with a candidate short market year on year. And it is still a tough market today.

Law firms can often spend anything from six to twelve months to find the right individual and have in some cases given up (corporate roles from 2-4 PQE are a prime example of this). What is important to remember if you are faced with how to handle a counter-offer is to ask yourself, ‘Is this genuine? Or is this purely based on how detrimental a loss to the business my lack of services will be?’

If you feel under appreciated in your role, then it is likely to be the latter. So, trust your instincts, and do what is right for you.


Contact Us

If you are a Lawyer and have experienced a counter-offer, but despite the promises your circumstances have not changed, speak with Siobhan Murray at about what to do next. 

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