‘Should I renege on my accepted TC offer to take one at a better firm?’

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I need readers’ advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one soon-to-be trainee wants to back out of one TC offer to accept another at a better firm.

“I received and accepted a TC offer a few months ago from a good firm, let’s call it firm A. I still kept applying afterwards, and was recently made a TC offer by a, in my opinion, much better firm — let’s call it firm B. I have about a month to accept or reject them.

I haven’t told firm A that I kept applying, and I haven’t told firm B that I already accepted an offer from firm A. If I now renege on firm A and accept firm B, what are realistically the possible consequences of that? I know the SRA used to have a voluntary code of conduct that prohibited candidates from doing what I’m doing (i.e. continuing to apply after accepting an offer, as well as not disclosing their current offers during other firms’ interviews / ACs) but they pulled out of it in 2015. I think I read somewhere that the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division has taken over a ‘revised’ version of the code, but I can’t find that version anywhere nor do I know if firms respect it / expect candidates to respect it.

I guess there’s also the ‘soft’ question of, how connected are HR / grad rec teams between firms? Could firm B possibly find out from firm A if I renege on my offer, and then withdraw their current offer? Or even further down the line, like in the middle of my TC, and then basically fire me? That would be quite terrible.”

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Tell firm B your situation without naming firm A. If they’re uncomfortable, stick with firm A. If not, take the better offer. I doubt either firm will care and whichever one you don’t go to will have no difficulty filling the vacancy.



Wouldn’t that potentially jeopardise the offer from firm B, which is in this case presented as the better of the two?


Put your future first

Pull out. You’re not doing the LPC yet (I presume), so you owe them nothing


JDP minion

I think the real JDP just stood up.


Concerned of Cabot Square

So you’re currently considering what firm is best for you and applying to see who offers you the most competitive offer. However you think there’s perhaps an agreement between competing firms, to restrict competition for the best candidates, (and then you suggest a conspiracy, or at least information exchange, between firms HR teams to punish candidates who encourage firms compete for then with better opportunities), well we’ve got a name for that conduct… if you do get fired in the middle of your training contract I’d be surprised if the reason given to you was you’d violated the trainee hiring practices cartel you seem to allege might exist; but if you did I can imagine who’d be interested to hear about it.
(Which is not to say you won’t have some private law problems with Firm A who’ll want there sponsorship back etc.)



What are you on son? “Hiring practices cartel”? “Suggest a conspiracy”? All I saw here was a concerned future trainee in a disgustingly competitive market, not a tinfoil hat-wearing wacko.



If you have a better offer, and no financial liability (like LPC fees), don’t be afraid to take it.

If the business needs of the firm change in the next few years, they won’t be too worried about deferring/binning future trainees.

Outside of the legal industry, large numbers of students/graduates renege on offers for grad schemes. A recent survey of ISE members (lots of large grad recruiters) showed a figure of 8% of offers being reneged. Obviously recruiters don’t like it, but that’s life, and the so called code is voluntary and not followed by some employers anyway.



That’s an interesting statistic, but is it relevant for the legal world though? As you rightly said firms wouldn’t hesitate to bin future trainees if their business needs change, but the JLD’s code (voluntary though it may be) doesn’t seem to prohibit them from doing so; it does, however, prohibit future trainees from “gaming” the system and keeping an offer in the bag while still applying for better ones.



Yeah the start is relevant as it shows it’s not uncommon for students to renege on grad scheme offers.

Sure, the JLD has signed up to a voluntary code, but look on the JLD website and they don’t claim to represent or offer membership to university students (apart from LPC), so why should they bind them?

There’s also a recommended minimum salary for trainees, but apparently lots of firms ignore that.

It’d be great if no one wanted to renege on an offer, but does a firm really want a trainee who doesn’t want to be there anyway? What’s the point?



Take the best offer. I doubt either firm will care. Trainees are generally just cannon fodder, and easily replaced.



Here is the revised code. Its not binding, but what you are doing would not be considered best practice.



Do any firms actually respect these best practices given that the SRA stopped endorsing them?



No. I have actually heard the recruitment partner at my firm say “who gives a shit” when the last SRA recommendations came out. Business as usual.


LPC student

I did this and I was really worried about letting the firm I had already accepted know, but they were really nice about it and wished me well. Do it sooner rather than later to give them a chance to recruit someone else.



Totally agree. I doubt the partners of Firm A are sat at home telling their spouses how proud they are to have recruited you. You’re a number on a spreadsheet, and can be replaced with someone who would be delighted to work for them, not wondering what would have been.



That’s interesting, and what did you tell them as far as the reason why you’re going back on your offer? Did you say you got a better offer elsewhere (and did you say where), or did you just say you weren’t interested in doing the TC any more?



You don’t have to say shit. Just say you no longer want it. If they ask, don’t like, but it’s highly likely they won’t ask.



I’d suggest hunting down the managing partner, preferably at a family event, slapping him across the face and proclaiming “stick your TC up your backside” whilst ripping up the offer letter.



With this stupid question you deserve neither.



With this stupid response you deserve a slap.



You’d choose the worse firm.



You’re about to enter a world where you are screwed over on an hourly basis. Don’t feel bad about dropping firm A.



Since you do not exist, I do not care.



Speaking as a grad rec team member we would much rather you renege early on and give us a chance to recruit another candidate who actually wants the offer. Rather you do it early than leave on qualification anyway.



Unless the current firm you’ve accepted the offer from has incurred any financial liability and there’s nothing in the terms of the offer / contract you’ve been sent for your potential new employer, then I think the practical risk of anything happening is very low. Ultimately, what are they going to do? I haven’t looked back at the notice period in my TC (now nearly 10 years ago) but I recall it was 3 months and I had to repay LPC fees if relevant – so assuming you’re a year away from LPC you can probably give notice now anyway and not even technically be in breach of contract!

On the ‘soft’ / people side, remember that HR people (just like lawyers) move between firms, so you never know whether the grad rec manager at one firm will pop up at another firm. Also keep in mind that, whilst you may think your new firm is the best thing since sliced bread now, your view might have changed after a few years, so if you do part company with your existing firm, try to do so on good terms – just in case you want to move to them later in life / if they ‘merge’ / if the GR manager pops up somewhere else.

Ultimately though look after number 1 because nobody else will. In my experience, if you’re honest about things, people will understand & respect that – ultimately it’s all just business as usual HR admin. People come & people go. Good luck!



Is it possible to move from a well regarded west-end firm to a city firm? in the middle of a TC at a well regarded west end firm having completed seats in both private client and corporate practice areas and have found that I enjoyed corporate a lot more. Feel like I may have shot myself in the foot by joining a firm which could offer a ‘broader’ range of practice areas to trainees.


I accepted Firm B in the same situation. Firm A could not have cared less, especially as shortly after they were consumed by CMS.


John M Barker

What qualifies you to say that one firm is better than another?


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