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The Counteroffer Conundrum: Why Staying Put May Curtail Your Career

  • November 16, 2023

If you just got that confirmation email or call from the hiring firm offering you the job you’ve long been hoping to land, then chances are you’ll have already punched the air in triumph and let out a huge sigh of relief at the conclusive news, thankful that the hard part of the job searching process is now behind you.

And while it’s certainly in order to celebrate such wonderful news with friends and family and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for making it this far, caution is advised at this junction – as there is still a transition period you are to navigate successfully, especially when there is still your resignation and notice period to manage.

Perhaps the most pertinent when discussing the activities involved in a thorough due diligence post-job search is the topic of counteroffers, an aspect of the transition process that presents a challenge to legal candidates often regardless of what they might have on offer from their soon-to-be employer.

According to the latest CIPD Labour Market Outlook report, 40% of UK employers have made a counteroffer to departing employees in the last 12 months and among that number, 38% matched the salary of the new job offer while 40% exceeded it. With employers increasingly reliant on counter offers to retain their key staff and a skills shortage across the industry to contend with, these findings point to two indisputable facts that any legal candidate on the brink of leaving their current role faces at present:

  • The chances that you will be made a counteroffer are higher than ever before.
  • It will likely be a tantalizing prospect to consider, regardless of whatever offer you’ve got on the table.

All of this to say, it isn’t an issue you can afford to take lightly, simple as its solution may seem.

So, what happens when you break the news to your current employer with your resignation letter at the ready and your current manager provides a counteroffer, asking you to stay?

While the promise of extra benefits, money, or extra responsibilities from your existing employer might be tempting, they usually point to a few red flags that make accepting a counteroffer ultimately a bad move for your career in the long run.

Here are 5 reasons you may want to think twice before accepting the new offer on the table:

1. Counteroffers Don’t Solve Underlying Issues

Moving from one job to another isn’t a decision most legal professionals will arrive at on a whim. There will be a lot of time and thought gone into weighing the pros and cons of leaving your current role, and from every possible angle, before deciding to take the leap.

When you’re given a counteroffer, it may address one or two gripes you have with your existing role (such as a low salary), but it’s unlikely to tackle every major issue that convinced you to leave. When faced with one, it’s a good idea to take a moment to ask yourself why you wanted to take this new job in the first place.

Is your current role lacking the challenge you’re looking for at this stage of your career, or are you planning on moving in an entirely new direction? Perhaps the culture or lack of flexibility are a constant source of headaches at your firm. If the sticking points with your role aren’t resolved by the counteroffer (which tend to be the case if these sit at the root of your concerns as culture and career development are not as simple a problem to fix as salary concerns) you should absolutely be turning it down and moving on with your new job offer.

2. An Unwelcome Change in Dynamics

Whilst it is well within your right to explore alternative options if your needs aren’t being met professionally and personally, an inevitable by-product of accepting a counteroffer after making your departure known to your employer is the impact it will have on your relationship going forward.

There’s a good chance your employer will have lingering questions about your loyalty after accepting the counteroffer, and this can manifest in ways that will eventually come to undermine the reasons that sit behind your decision to stay.

You may see yourself getting passed over for promotions, or find your employer actively looking to hire for your position to fill the gap you’ll leave when you do eventually jump ship, all because they consider you a flight risk.

As they will (somewhat understandably) no longer have the same level of trust they once did, there’s likely to be an uncomfortable and awkward dynamic at play, even if they do end up going in the other direction and working harder to keep you happy.

3. A Growth Plateau

Career development often involves moving between different roles, taking on new responsibilities over time and stepping out of one’s comfort zone constantly to keep the trajectory of one’s growth on the up. While there is the benefit of quickly climbing up the ladder in one law firm and building up experience working within a particular team or role, staying put for too long can be as damaging to your career prospects in the long run, as it keeps you out of the loop on what opportunities are ripe for you to expand your skills and experience and consequently stunt your growth.

When deciding if a counteroffer is worth accepting, ask yourself if it keeps you on course to achieving your short and long-term career goals. Compared to the job you presently have lined up, does your existing role get you closer to meeting those key milestones any faster?

Remember that a higher salary won’t bridge the gap that an unrewarding role leaves. Yes, the money will certainly be a welcome incentive but that will quickly become irrelevant if your existing role isn’t pushing you in the right direction. It’s important that you keep your end goal in mind when considering a counteroffer and avoid any ill judgement based on the promise of monetary value.

4. With Great Investment Comes Great Scrutiny

Given the gravity of the skills shortage prevalent in the hiring market today, keeping a hold of top talent has become a lot more of an urgent imperative for businesses across the industry. As firms increasingly opt for desperate measures to retain their key personnel, it has become commonplace to see employers rush to offer a more handsome remuneration package to save themselves the stress of scouring the market for an adequate replacement.

While this is good news for candidates currently without a role, it is a double edged sword for anyone considering the prospect of a counteroffer. This flexibility towards a salary/benefits increase can and often does mean employers  become increasingly wary of how much you warrant the extra investment down the line and can lead to them actively looking for tangible evidence you’re worth it right away.

Having this extra scrutiny placed on your performance, conduct and attitude – down to the smallest of things – can be a stressful experience, even if you are conscious you are well-deserving of the extra benefits you received.

In some cases, employees who accept counteroffers find themselves under pressure to perform like a new hire all over again, trying to prove they deserve their new salary and responsibilities. In other cases, you may find that some of these responsibilities aren’t ones you asked for or are fit to handle, and that’s because your employer simply wants to ensure they’re getting their “return on investment” from you.

5. Risk of Regret

Job changes can be stressful and worrisome, but they can also present incredible opportunities to tap into your potential as a legal professional and build a stellar career for yourself. If you’ve been offered a job at another firm, and you’ve said “yes”, then chances are there’s clearly something about the new role that appealed to you.

Maybe you loved the level of flexibility it offered and don’t have an opportunity to get that kind of work life balance at your current firm. Perhaps you were interested in branching out into a slightly different aspect of your practice area and won’t get the chance to explore that in your current role. Bear in mind that any unfulfilled desire will always be there in the form of regret if you do nothing to change your circumstances when opportunity knocks at the door.

Although you’ll have the comfort of not having to get accustomed to a new working environment or team, you’ll also be left constantly wondering what would have happened if you had followed through and moved into that new role.

Counteroffer Strategies 101

It’s always worth preparing for a counteroffer in advance before approaching your manager with your resignation letter. Think about how best to pass across your rejection to their offer politely and firmly, and whether there are still any important factors at play that warrant you seriously considering passing up the chance to make a new move.

By far the best way to add that extra layer security to your preparation is to work alongside a specialist legal recruiter throughout a process. They possess a great deal of knowledge about the job application process, from both a hiring and employee perspective and are best placed to help alleviate any doubts you might have about your current options – counteroffer or not.

If you find yourself at a critical junction in your legal career with no clear pointers on how best to advance, then you’re in luck. At Clayton Legal we make it our goal to simplify the job-hunting process as much as possible for legal candidates, whatever the complications involved may be, and would love to give you the helping hand you need in navigating any uncertainties about the next move for your career. Give our team a call today on 01772 259 121 or contact us here.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from Partners to Legal Executives, Solicitors to Paralegals and Legal IT personnel to Practice Managers. 

Whether you are building your legal team or are looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here. 

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The 5 Big Legal Career Mistakes You Are Probably Making

  • April 10, 2019

Everybody makes mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a solicitor with years of experience in your field, or a graduate paralegal joining a team for the first time. Mistakes happen. A small misstep is a positive learning opportunity, particularly if you approach it with the right attitude.

However, there’s a difference between small oversights, and miscalculations that wreck your reputation, harm your career plan and leave you struggling to achieve your goals. Here are 5 common career mistakes that we constantly see as a legal recruitment specialist.

1. Thinking Your Career Progression Has To Be Linear

These days, terms like ‘job hopping’ have a bad reputation. However, there’s nothing wrong with moving to a different law firm if you can’t follow your career goals with your current employer.

When you look at the career plans of successful people around the world, you’ll see thousands of entrepreneurs, executives and legal professionals who got to where they are today not by ‘climbing the ladder’, but by developing their skills and pursuing opportunities where they could find them.

Countless legal professionals stick by the same firm for years, hoping for a promotion that might never happen. However, sometimes finding the right role means looking in a different direction. Don’t let your loyalty stop you from reaching your true potential.

2. Struggling With ‘Shiny Object’ Syndrome

While there’s definitely something to be said for self-advocacy and seeking challenge and advancement, it’s equally important to ensure that you’ve carefully explored your potential at your current firm before seeking opportunities elsewhere.

Although it’s essential to make sure that you’re being paid what you’re worth and developed to your full potential, you want to avoid falling victim to shiny object syndrome. It can be tempting to say ‘yes’ to a new job just because it sounds interesting or looks promising on the surface.

However, before you commit to changing your career path, it’s worth doing your research and finding out whether your new position fits into your plan for long-term success, as well as making sure you’ve done all you can to achieve your career goals at your current law firm.

Evaluate each potential job change carefully and turn to your recruitment agency for help if you need extra support. Remember, it’s not just about getting ‘new’ opportunities; it’s about finding the right ones that match your skills and interests.

3. Failing To Improve Your Skills

When you’ve got a great job with a competitive remuneration package, you might decide that it’s time to sit back, relax and reap the rewards of a successful recruitment journey. However, the most successful people know that there is no ‘finish line’ in their career plan. There are always new opportunities out there for growth and development.

To avoid being stuck in a rut, it’s necessary to work on developing your skills as well as acquiring new ones. If your employer can’t provide you with opportunities to build on your skills, then create your own. Look for networking events or professional development offerings related to your field and keep up-to-date on the latest sector trends.

The more you grow your professional skills and knowledge, the more you open yourself up to better positions, bigger promotions, and a more satisfying and successful legal career.

4. Letting Fear of Failure Hold You Back

Sometimes, if you want to accomplish great things, you need to take chances.

The most inspiring leaders in the world right now didn’t accomplish their goals by sticking to career choices they felt were safe. There’s nothing wrong with trying out a short-term role, signing up for an apprenticeship, or working part-time to find the position that’s right for you. If your experiments don’t work out, you can at least learn something from them.

Challenging yourself to take on new projects and try different things will impress the colleagues in your law firm, even if you don’t always succeed in your goals. What’s more, every failure is a chance to learn and grow in your field.

One of the main ways that fear of failure holds people back is by convincing them to stay in a position where they’re under-challenged, which means that they’re in a role that doesn’t utilise their skills or talents. Working with a specialist recruitment agency like Clayton Legal will help to ensure that you find the right position that makes the most of your abilities.

5. Forgetting to Network

Finally, although many people dislike networking, it is the most effective way to open yourself up to new opportunities and increase the value of your personal brand.

While it can be easy to become complacent and stop networking once you have a full-time role, continuously building your professional social sphere and making new connections in your field is a great way to advance your legal career. The more you network, the more you’ll learn about new job opportunities, professional development, and you may even find a mentor for your career plan.

Networking not only helps to develop your personal brand; it can also give weight to your application when you apply for competitive roles. Sometimes, ‘who’ you know really is just as important as ‘what you know’. Growing your network not only makes you a more valued legal professional at your firm; it will increase your chances of being noticed by other law firms, as well.

About Clayton Legal

Clayton Legal has been partnering with law firms across the country since 1999 and during that time has built up an enviable reputation for trust and reliability. We have made over 5,000 placements from partners to legal executives, solicitors to paralegals and legal IT personnel to practice managers.

If you are building your legal team or looking for your next career move, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

If you would like to know more about recruiting trends in the legal sector this year download our latest guide here.

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How to tell whether your legal job is going well or not

  • October 15, 2018

When things are going well in your job it’s a great feeling. Work that interests you and which you find enjoyable doesn’t just make the week go by quicker, it leaves you feeling fulfilled and that you are making a difference. Indeed, those in the legal profession often feel that their job satisfaction comes from more than monetary reward; quality pro bono work and development provide opportunities for professional growth.

But what happens if things aren’t going quite so well? What tell-tale signs should you look out for, and how can you tell whether seeking employment elsewhere would be beneficial? It’s an important consideration, and that’s why we’ve put together this guide to help you determine how well your job is going – and what you can do about it.

When things aren’t quite going right in your position

In life and at work things sometimes go wrong. Perhaps you applied for a promotion that you didn’t get or maybe you made an honest mistake in your work. Whatever the reason, when things don’t quite go right, it’s very off-putting. It can leave you feeling distracted, worried about your position, and often this leads to underperformance, creating a vicious circle.

The most important thing is being able to recognise when you can make improvements and when things are beyond your control. For example, asking the partners for feedback might explain what you could do differently next time to secure the promotion. Or maybe you’ll discover that the budget for the new position was unexpectedly withdrawn, which isn’t something you can help. Positive action will give you a clearer answer than continuing to worry about a situation.

How do you know if you should stay in your position or leave?

Being positive and taking proactive steps are important. However, if you feel that things aren’t quite right it’s still important that you consider whether you should stay with or leave the firm.

If you’ve asked yourself what changes you can make for the better, acted on those changes, and things still aren’t working out, the next step is to speak to your manager. Can they provide extra support? If things don’t improve, or if help is not forthcoming then it may be time to consider a new position.

What are the warning signs for when things are not going well?

Determining whether your job is going well or not can be tough, although there are signs to watch out for which will help you decide.

Internal factors: Low motivation is a clue that your job is not fulfilling you. If you dread working with colleagues or partners then it’s also a sign that things could be better. Spending time wishing for the weekend or dreading Monday morning are also clues that the job is not going as well as it could.

External factors: Key things to watch out for that indicate your job is not going well are missing targets, being invited to performance reviews by management, and being passed over for promotion. Ask for feedback wherever you can as this will equip you with information which you can act on and change things for a more positive outcome. If the feedback is vague, very negative or you don’t receive any, then it could be an indication that the job isn’t playing to your strengths.

What is your workload like: too much or not enough?

Your workload has a big impact on your success in a position. While targets can be motivating, if you don’t hit them, they can have the opposite effect. PwC reported that legal professionals across every level of experience are failing to meet targets. If you find yourself in a similar situation, ask yourself why it’s happening. Are the targets unrealistic, or is there simply too much work for you to do? In which case a discussion with your manager could result in more achievable targets and a more manageable workload.

On the other hand, maybe you feel that you don’t have enough to do. If you’re unmotivated or under stimulated by your work, it could mean that the position isn’t quite right.

It’s about achieving a balanced workload that will challenge you without leaving you burnt out.

According to figures published in the Law Society Gazette, the number of practising solicitors has reached an all-time high at 140,000. If your area of specialism is oversubscribed, then it could mean you have little work to do. Consider a position in a different area and you might find that a new challenge brings a fresh outlook.

Is the firm’s culture right for you?

The culture of a firm has an impact not only on your work but also how much you enjoy working in your job role. If the culture doesn’t appeal to you, then it can be a major factor in prompting you to leave. When we surveyed law firms earlier this year, we found that 78% of firms thought that attrition rates were getting better. This is significantly more positive than the 51% of firms who thought the same in 2016. Interestingly, the most common reason given for firms to think that attrition rates were improving was down to the firm’s culture, which shows it to be a very important factor.

This also suggests that law firms are getting better at creating enjoyable cultures for all of their staff. If there’s still work to be done, or if the culture just doesn’t make you feel at ease, it will affect how you feel about your job and your performance in the end.

Do the firm’s values marry with your own?

The values of a law firm are often linked closely with its culture – if the values don’t match up with your own, then you might find that things don’t go as smoothly in your job as you would like. Our salary survey found firms place particular importance on candidates with a sound commercial understanding, one respondent said: “There are plenty of law graduates, but we are finding that partners are looking for people with legal experience rather than law degrees.” If the firm you work for is very much driven by results, profits and big characters, and you’re more interested in providing excellent customer service, then you could find the values of the firm don’t fit with your own personal values. This can make your experience of a job very unenjoyable and increase your chances of looking for a new position in the future.

Feeling happy with your decision

Whether you decide to stay in your current job role or move on, the most important thing is that it’s the right decision for you. Taking the above into account will help you establish whether or not you should stay and try to make improvements or to jump ship.

We’ve worked with legal professionals for decades to help them get the best out of their careers – whether that means staying or leaving a job.

So, if you’re feeling unsure about the best course of action, then speak to one of our team on 01772 259 121 – we’d be happy to help.

If you are thinking of moving jobs, then you may like to read our blog: Moving Jobs: Factors that influence your decision.

You can also register your CV online, and why not have a browse through some of our existing vacancies.

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