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Michael Page Legal update: the NQ market, Brexit and seat choices

So you have just started your training contract or you are about to embark on your second year as a trainee. Both are exciting times but also quite daunting! 
The question we are regularly asked by both 1st and 2nd year trainees is ‘where are the jobs likely to be on qualification?’ A lot of you are asking this question at the moment, especially in the wake of Brexit.
Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball (unfortunately!) and the legal market is constantly changing and evolving, Michael Page Legal are in a great position to advise you as to what is currently happening in the local market and beyond. Part of our job is to keep on top of market trends and we are constantly speaking with decision makers at firms to understand where current recruitment needs lie and where they are likely to be in the mid to long-term. 
The good news is that the NQ market has been buoyant in the Midlands for the past couple of years. 
But what is it likely to look like over the course of your training contract?
Here’s a very brief overview on Michael Page Legal’s take of the market at the moment.

Where has the demand for NQs been?

For the past couple of years there has been a huge demand for transactional NQs mainly across property (commercial and residential), corporate, tax, and finance. Trainees who undertook strong seats in any of these areas have been able to land NQ roles (internally and externally) fairly easily. In 2016, firms retained / recruited multiple people into these areas.
This year we have also helped trainees secure roles in areas such as commercial contracts, commercial litigation, property litigation, insurance litigation, construction, pensions, and planning.
2016 saw a particular increase in demand for Employment NQs from Birmingham firms – a major contributing factor being the lack of recruitment in this area for the two years previous.

How will Brexit impact these trends?

Of course, this remains to be seen. It is likely that firms may initially adopt a more conservative attitude towards recruitment whilst the immediate impact of Brexit remains unclear. We expect this approach may be particularly apparent within transactional teams.
Saying that, the message from most Birmingham firms so far is that they continue to be busy and it remains very much ‘business as usual’. We are still recruiting for teams that were on the lookout prior to Brexit and we’ve placed plenty of NQs since June. We even had an international firm give us the green light to offer a position to a Real Estate NQ at 10am the morning after the referendum!
Teams will continue to need to build at the junior end if work is coming in – indeed I qualified myself as a Corporate Finance solicitor in the height of the recession in 2010 - it may just be that some of these roles will be a bit more competitive and you’ll need to demonstrate solid experience.
It’s really important to remember that vacancies will crop up for a range of reasons other than just market buoyancy. For example, firms will need to recruit due to team resignations, an influx of client instructions or a lack of internal trainee options – the list goes on. So you can never say that there won’t be a role in your preferred area of law.

Should I avoid any seats?

The best advice for your first training contract is to go with the flow. Don’t become too preoccupied about where there may or may not be a job on qualification (but of course it’s good to be aware of what the market is doing).
You’ve probably got preconceptions from University and the LPC about which areas of law you want to avoid but, remember, it may be completely different in practice. There’s plenty of examples of lawyers who have qualified into an area of law which they hated when studying!
Your second year is where you need to properly start thinking about which seats to undertake (especially as you should now get first shout on seat choices in front of your first year peers!) and to think strategically about where you should move for your next seat. 
Dilemmas in your second year will no doubt include:
  • Will it boost my CV if I repeat a seat?
  • Which seats will best complement the area I want to qualify into?
  • Is the area of law I want to qualify into busy or should I have a backup option?
Michael Page Legal specialise in the recruitment of solicitors into law firms, in-house organisations and the public sector. We have a specialist team of consultants who can assist you as you approach qualification. You don’t necessarily have to be seeking an external position on qualification to get in touch - you may just want some general advice on the market and seat choices. We have a track record of assisting trainee solicitors through one-on-one CV workshops, market advice and guidance and, of course, we can also come to you with NQ opportunities.
Prior to joining Michael Page in 2012, Conor Farrell worked for four years at Squire Patton Boggs in Birmingham as a Corporate Finance solicitor having trained and then qualified at the firm.