According to the newly released 2012 Salary Guide from Robert Half Legal, law firms of all sizes are adding staff in high-demand practice areas such as litigation, healthcare, bankruptcy/foreclosure and corporate transactional law. Corporate legal departments, meanwhile, are expanding their internal teams as they bring more work in-house as a cost-containment measure.
As opportunities grow for the most in-demand legal professionals, some legal organizations face turnover when valued staff members are attracted by job offers from other firms. Many respond by presenting these employees with a counteroffer. For a variety of reasons, however, this strategy rarely works.
While losing a critical component of your team may be a setback, a counteroffer is not likely to accomplish your goal of keeping the person over the long term. Individuals who are motivated to job-hunt often have reasons that go well beyond salary. Even if they decide to stay, they may remain unhappy in the position and ultimately leave.
Trust may never be the same
People don’t quit jobs they love. If the employee was completely satisfied working for you, you wouldn’t have to discuss counteroffers. Professionals who accept your offer may begin to question why it took the threat of departure for the firm or department to recognize their value and make improvements to the job. There also may be additional considerations that can’t be resolved such as old conflicts with other staff members or incompatibility with the firm or corporate culture that may cause the person to rethink his decision and leave.
The reverse also is true. No matter how much you want to retain a key member of your team, recognize that you may have lingering doubts about the employee’s loyalty and motivation as well, since the person has admitted to being open to leaving for a better opportunity. Also, if the individual agrees to your counteroffer, he or she would be putting the manager at the other company in a difficult position by backing out of an employment agreement. Is this the type of person you really want in your group? You should strive to maintain a team of employees who are not just committed to your company but who are also honorable and trustworthy.
View it as a learning experience
While the loss of a critical employee can be difficult, it also presents an opportunity to make improvements that might benefit remaining staff. Take note of the factors that prompted the person to leave your organization. Compare the reasons given with those provided by other individuals who have quit in the past year or two. You may discover that there is some consistency in the responses, helping you identify a broader problem. People complaining about lack of learning opportunities, for example, may prompt you to make greater investments in training and mentoring programs.
You also may uncover new stars on your team who step in and shine by assuming the job responsibilities of the employee who left. What appears to be a devastating situation may turn out to be far less disruptive than anticipated – maybe even beneficial.
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major cities throughout the United States and Canada.