If you are currently completing your legal training contract, it can be an exciting time 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?” This is particularly true at the moment, especially given the political uncertainty over the last couple of years,
Whilst we don’t have a crystal ball and the legal market is constantly changing and evolving, Michael Page Legal is 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 for the past 5-6 years. But what is it likely to look like over the course of your training contract?
Conor Farrell, Manager of the Michael Page Legal Midlands’ team, sets out an overview on Michael Page Legal’s take of the market at the moment.
Where has the demand for NQs been?
For the past few 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 2018 and 2019, firms retained and recruited multiple people into these areas.
In 2019 we also helped trainees secure roles in areas such as commercial contracts, commercial litigation, property litigation, insurance litigation, construction, pensions, and planning. Since 2016 we have seen a particular increase in demand for Employment NQs – a major contributing factor has been the abolishment of Tribunal Fees and the lack of recruitment in this area for the years previous.
The uncertainty around Brexit had little impact on the NQ market in the Midlands – most firms continued to adopt the ‘business as usual’ approach which meant that demand for junior lawyers did not drop off. The message from most firms so far for 2020 is that this is expected to remain the case now that the UK has left the EU.
What will 2020 look like?
The outlook remains positive for trainee solicitors who are set to qualify in 2020.
We anticipate that retention rates will be high amongst the large Birmingham firms, meaning that it is unlikely that there will be a huge amount of top tier NQs looking at the external job market.
This, in turn, creates a great opportunity for trainee solicitors at regional or smaller firms who are looking to make a step up on qualification.
Firms have become a lot more flexible over the last 5 years about their ‘must haves’ from a trainee solicitor’s CV. In fact, a lot of teams are now happy to recruit in the potential of a hidden gem who has had a good grounding in an area of law, is still seen as malleable and has the appetite to learn and develop.
Top tier trainee solicitors and those looking to relocate from The City are likely to have a range of opportunities available to them come the Summer.
Should I avoid any seats?
The best advice for the first year of your 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 specialises 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.
Conor Farrell, Manager
Michael Page Legal