One question that attorneys in the job searching process frequently ask is, “What should I do if I receive a counteroffer from my current firm?” The decision to move is often a difficult one because of professional relationships with your colleagues at your current firm and the fact that change is generally not easy. However, accepting a counteroffer to remain at your firm can often be a mistake with long-term consequences.
If you have pursued a job search to the point of receiving an acceptable offer, then you are serious about moving to a new opportunity. The reasons for making a change are varied and may include a combination of the following: Increased compensation, a better commute, greater chance for advancement, or more responsibility with clients.
Regardless of the reason or reasons, you may be tempted to consider a counteroffer from your current firm to stay put. Experience tells us that you should think twice before accepting that counteroffer. Most often, accepting the counteroffer will not solve the problem that caused you to look for a job in the first place. It could only mask the problem for a period of time.
As with all things, there are exceptions. For example, if your original reason to begin your job search is solely based on one factor such as compensation, and everything else about your current firm is in line with your intended career path, then accepting a counteroffer may be the right option. However, I caution you that a similar issue may arise in the future. If the firm did not compensate you fairly at one point, is there a risk that you will be taken for granted in the future? You may have given up a great opportunity for this short-term fix. You should only accept a counteroffer if you have made your goals and future expectations clear and your firm shows a commitment to support you going forward.
You should also recognize the reasons why a firm may make a counteroffer to you. It may simply be a matter of convenience for your existing firm. Should you move, the firm knows that your work will have to be shifted to other people and this could cause problems with billing and disrupt client relations. In addition, the firm will be focused on finding your replacement, which is time consuming and may cost them more money than simply meeting your requirements. That, however, does not make you a more valuable asset to the firm and your original concerns will likely still be present.
To be clear, starting a job search process is not easy. You may have your reasons to seek other opportunities. Accepting a counteroffer will not necessarily fix these issues. It could be a short-term bandage when you are looking for a long-term solution.