In a boardroom at Counter Tax Lawyers, a seven-year-old tax-litigation firm in Toronto, a fire alarm is going off. But Peter Aprile, the firm’s founder, wants to keep talking. “I don’t care about that,” he says. “It’s a drill.”
Aprile has a lot to explain. He just posted an opening for a second-year summer student, but his job offer is pretty unusual. Here’s how it works: you, an incoming 2L, can apply for a summer position that starts in May of 2018. If you get the job, you’re guaranteed an articling position the following year. And if, at the end of that 10-month period, the firm offers you a full-time position and you decide to turn it down, Aprile will give you $10,000 to walk away and pursue what’s best for you.
The “get paid to quit” concept is not entirely new. In the late aughts, the online retailer Zappos announced it would pay employees who wanted to quit $100. When Amazon purchased the company in 2009, it raised that figure: departing employees can take home between $2,000 and $5,000 dollars, depending how long they’ve been with the company.
So what’s the logic behind the strategy? For Aprile, he doesn’t want his summer students to be worried about their job security. “I don’t think the current hiring system is a healthy place for lawyers to grow in,” he says. “Security is always a concern. Positions are dwindling, so there’s both competition to get a job and then the stress of keeping it.” If students feel secure about their job and their future, this should, in turn, lead to increased productivity and an overall better work experience.
Anil Verma, a professor at the Rotman School of Management, is a big fan of the get-paid-to-quit idea. “Good hiring is a matter of mutual satisfaction,” he says. It’s also smart for a small firm like Counter Tax to try something bold, because it could attract strong students who would otherwise have ignored the firm.
“Look,” says Aprile, “there’s no science behind the number. What we’re trying to do is encourage students to pause and ask, Is this a firm I want to partner with?”
The firm will accept applications until it finds “a suitable candidate.”