As a Mavericks fan, watching the DeAndre Jordan saga unfold yesterday was disappointing. However, as an attorney recruiter, I have been unfortunate enough to be on the wrong side of a counteroffer a few times in my 13+ year career. It happens once every few years and when it does, it always stings.
For those who are not NBA fans, a quick summary of the DeAndre Jordan saga – superstar NBA free agent verbally accepts an offer to leave the LA Clippers and join the Dallas Mavericks. League rules prevented him from officially signing his contract for 6 days (“moratorium”). During day 2 of the moratorium, Jordan started to question his decision, and then engaged the Clippers in counter offer negotiations while leading the Mavericks to believe he was still committed to them. Once word of his doubts leaked on the final day of the moratorium, he made a bad situation even worse, by stalling and not telling the Mavericks that he had accepted a counteroffer. He set up a meeting with them, then no showed at the meeting and would not return their calls, until the clock struck midnight and he officially signed a new contract with the Clippers. The Mavericks had relied on his verbal commitment and passed on other players that they could have signed. When the moratorium ended, so did the hopes of the Mavericks to sign a player of Jordan’s caliber. All the star players had accepted offers with other teams. Jordan’s indecision and unprofessionalism in communicating his intent to break his verbal commitment cost the Mavericks an opportunity to improve their team.
If you Google “counteroffer” you will see that a majority of professionals agree that it is almost always a bad idea to accept a counteroffer. Your relationship with your employer is forever changed. No matter the assurances that you are given, you will always be seen as the associate or partner who was not completely loyal.
Whatever the reasons were for wanting to change jobs, you should have analyzed them and made attempts to resolve the issues that were possible to resolve before you accepted another job offer. This leaves you with – issues that could not be resolved or the deal-breakers. They were the reasons you went out and found a new job that better fits your career requirements or goals. Furthermore, if it takes your submitting a resignation letter for your current employer to address your concerns, then how can you be sure that they genuinely want to address your concerns, or are they just promising changes to prevent you from leaving? In most cases it is the later not the former. Accepting a counteroffer is almost always done on the basis of emotion and not sound logical reasoning.
However, counteroffers happen. While the experts agree that it is a bad move to take a counteroffer, people still take them. What you don’t want to do, however, is be unprofessional during the process. You should not conduct yourself in a manner similar to DeAndre Jordan; where you do not communicate with your new employer or where you mislead your new employer. This is certain to burn a bridge and perhaps harm your professional reputation. The legal market is small. Lateral movement and firm mergers happen on a regular basis. The new employer that you just treated unprofessionally, may end up merging with your firm. The hiring manager may switch jobs and be your boss one-day, or you may be co-counsel with them. People in the legal market talk, if you have a reputation, it will be tarnished. You will be known as the person who is unprofessional and untrustworthy.
Always handle yourself professionally. Be clear and consistent in your communication with all parties involved. If you are starting to have doubts – immediately connect with your new employer or your recruiter and speak with them candidly about your concerns. Be transparent in the process. Taking a counteroffer is generally a bad idea, but misleading your new employer will only compound your bad decision.
Rahul D. Yodh is a Principal of Link Legal Search Group, a boutique attorney search firm that provides lateral attorney recruitment and contract attorney services to law firms nationwide. For more information on Link Legal Search Group, please visit www.linklegalsearch.com