I just got a job offer. Should I get a lawyer to review it before I sign?
It’ll cost a few hundred dollars. I wonder if it’s worth it.
Congrats on the offer!
First off, don’t feel pressured to sign immediately. A polite thank you email that signals your excitement, but also advises that you’re going to take some time to review the offer before signing, is a good first move.
An employment lawyer would make sure your legal rights are protected. This goes beyond getting you enough vacation time or sick pay. A lawyer can also advise on things like:
Termination and severance. If you get fired without cause, there are minimum payments that all employees get under BC’s employment standards legislation, depending on how long you worked somewhere. But you might want to ask for more. And there are other factors that could affect severance like your age, how long it might take you to find another position at your level, or how you are terminated, that you might end up waiving if termination provisions are drafted in favor of your employer.
Competition. The contract might try to make sure you can’t work for an employer’s competitor or allow you to lure away their employees or customers. Check out our coverage on post-employment restrictions to learn more.
Exclusivity. Do you have other gigs? Some employment contracts don’t allow for this.
Appendices and other policies. Job offers may mention employee handbooks and codes of conduct that you agree to follow simply by signing the contract. Reading through these can be an arduous task!
Your lawyer will have a keen eye to these things, and more. In deciding whether to engage a lawyer, though, consider your specific context:
Is it a relatively senior position? For an entry-level role, it might be less worth your while, given you’ll have less bargaining power. But if it’s a higher-level position, there are some elements that you might want to (and be able to) haggle over.
Is the job at a big organization? If so, they’re more likely to have lawyers or a legal department who will deal with this, which means there might be quite a bit of back and forth (meaning a higher legal bill for you if you hire a lawyer).
Is the contract they gave you long or difficult to understand? Signing something you don’t fully comprehend can endanger legal rights you didn’t even know you had.
If you decide to hire an employment lawyer, make sure you’re clear on fees: you can try to ask for a flat fee or a range rather than agreeing to an hourly rate.
Also, consider how you’d like to communicate any counteroffer or questions to your employer. Sending them a lawyer’s letter as your first response might rub them the wrong way and not make for a good working relationship (or worse yet, lead to them revoking the offer).