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The Counteroffer Conundrum: Why Staying Put May Curtail Your Career

So, you’ve made it through most of the complex steps involved in finding a new role, from designing the ideal legal CV to practicing interview techniques. Finally, all your hard work has paid off, and you’ve received an excellent offer from your new employer.  

But, what happens when you hand over your resignation letter and your current manager provides a counteroffer, asking you to stay?  

Anywhere up to 50% of the employees who choose to resign from a role will receive a counteroffer from their current employer. In other words, they will finally offer you the additional money or benefits they didn’t consider offering you before they realised you wanted to leave. 

In the age of the Great Resignation, when demand for legal talent is higher than ever, your chances of getting a counteroffer are even higher than ever before, as many law firms are battling with retention of their top team members and attracting the best talent on the market at the same time. 

While the promise of extra benefits, money, or extra responsibilities from your existing employer might be tempting, if that’s what you are looking for, accepting a counteroffer could be a bad move for your future career.  

Here are the reasons why you should usually ignore a counteroffer. 

Reasons You Should Consider Saying “No” to a Counteroffer

Counteroffers are becoming more commonplace as leaders struggle to hold onto their top talent in a skills-short environment. Unfortunately, according to statistics, around 80% of the people who accept these offers end up leaving their original employer within six months anyway as the underlying issues as to why there were leaving in the first place still exist.  

Here’s why you should politely but firmly decline a counteroffer.  

1. Counteroffers Don’t Solve Underlying Issues

Deciding to seek a new legal role isn’t something most people will do on a whim. There’s a good chance you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the pros and cons of leaving your current job and looking for something else before you take the leap. 

When you’re given a counteroffer, it may address one of your problems with your existing role (such as a low salary), but it’s unlikely to tackle every issue that convinced you to leave.  

Ask yourself why you wanted to take this new job in the first place. Is your current role not challenging enough, or are you planning on moving in a new direction with your career? Maybe you don’t like the culture of your existing company. If every issue isn’t resolved by the counteroffer, you should say “no” and continue to move on with your new employment offer.  

2. The Relationship with Your Employer will Change

Employees in the competitive legal sector have every right to seek new roles whenever they choose. However, letting your employer know you’re not happy in your role and actively looking for something else is likely to have an impact on your relationship 

There’s a good chance your employer will have questions about your loyalty after accepting the counteroffer, which means they may not have the same trust in you they had before. Your employer might end up passing you over for promotions because they consider you a flight risk, or they may start looking for other people to fill the gap you’ll leave when you do eventually switch jobs.  

Even if your boss goes in the other direction and starts working harder to keep you happy, there’s likely to be an uncomfortable dynamic in play until you do eventually leave. 

3. You May End Up Standing Still

Career development often involves moving between different roles, exploring new jobs, and taking on new responsibilities over the years. While you can climb the ladder in one law firm and end up with a great career, consistently staying in one place could mean you miss out on opportunities to expand your skills and experience.  

When deciding whether a counteroffer is worth accepting, ask yourself if you’ll still be moving towards your long-term career goals if you say yes and stay put. Compared to the other job you have lined up, can your existing role help you achieve your targets faster? 

A higher salary won’t satisfy you for long if your existing role isn’t pushing you in the right direction. It’s important to keep the end goal in mind with your career and not get clouded by monetary values.  

4. You May Have to Work Harder to Prove Yourself

In a skills-short legal marketplace, employers will often rush to offer extra benefits and increased salaries to avoid the stress of searching for new employees. However, this could mean they start looking for evidence you’re worth the extra investment right away.  

Having extra scrutiny placed on everything you do within the business can be a stressful experience, even if you know you deserve 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 you start receiving responsibilities you didn’t ask for simply because your boss is trying to ensure they’re getting their “money’s worth” from you.  

5. You’ll Always Wonder, “What If?”

Job changes can be stressful and worrying, but they’re also an incredible opportunity to unlock your true potential and advance your career. If you’ve been offered a role at another company, and you’ve said “yes”, there’s clearly something about the new role that appealed to you.  

Maybe you loved the idea of working remotely in the legal environment and don’t have an opportunity to do that at your new job. Perhaps you were interested in focusing on a slightly different part of your industry in a different role and that desire will always be there if you stay in your current role. 

Although you’ll have the comfort of not having to get used to a new workplace and meet new people, you’ll also be left constantly wondering what would have happened if you had followed through and moved into the new job.  

Know How to Handle a Counteroffer

It’s worth preparing for a counteroffer in advance when you approach your manager with your resignation letter. Think about how you will reject the offer politely and firmly, and what important factors might convince you to give your old job a second chance.  

Working with a specialist legal recruitment team to find the ideal new role will help to ensure you don’t have any doubts about moving into your new position.   

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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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director

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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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