Counteroffers – What Administrators Need to Know

There are many occasions these days in which lawyers will find themselves weighing their employment options and, as an administrator, you can only benefit from learning how associates might react to counteroffers.  Above the Law takes on the challenge of presenting a several-series piece on the topic of the tangible and not-so-tangible reasons that attorneys jump ship—even after their current firm has made a counteroffer.  ( also has something to say on the matter. See the end of this blog for both sources.)

So, essentially, what you need to know is: when an attorney is wondering: “should I stay or should I go?”, what are the reasons and what, if anything, will change their mind?  

At a time when most firms are trimming the fat, as ATL puts it, attorneys are well aware that it still costs a firm more to hire (and “break in”) a new employee than it does to keep the status quo. This is especially true for firms operating on a reduced staff where perhaps an increased workload has been projected for the coming year.  

So while associates are putting in a record number of billable hours, they will be testing the waters…and even looking for and finding employment at other firms.  These attorneys will sometimes expect their current employer to reach out—and, in fact, their employers may be very willing to do so.

“For the first time since the recession began,” says ATL, “firms may actually be disappointed when one of their associates gets hired and they are most likely going to present these associates with tempting counteroffers.”  

If these associates speak to a career counselor, they are likely to be advised to look at the big picture in the following manner:  

  • Take stock of the situation and examine tangibles.  Reassess the current job scenario. What were the decisions that led to the decision to leave?  How likely is it that such a situation will change, now?  It helps to name the issues so that you can bring them up at either the exit interview or the counteroffer meeting. 
  • Some issues that often come up are: salary/bonuses; work load and quality of assignments; growth and partnership potential and your relationship with coworkers and partners.  
  • Look at the not-so-tangibles.  Are you feeling valued at work?  Do you think you have a good work/life balance?  Do you fit into the firm’s culture? 
  • These things can’t always be remedied by a counteroffer.  For instance, if you are an autonomous worker who enjoys making unique, individual contributions to a project, you might not mesh with a large firm where team work is the norm. On the other hand, if you prefer a firm that rewards group-centered performance and your employer hones in on high-achievers, it’s best to find a better fit. As ATL says, “You’d be kidding yourself if you think your firm is going to change its culture to retain you.”  

Bottom line: there are many reasons why associates decide their personality and/or preferences might not dovetail with their present position.  The most level-headed job-seekers will weigh all such considerations in totality, so as not to be “blinded by the dollar figure or… perks of a counteroffer.”   Read more at: and see, also, a related item at



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