If you have started your legal training contract or you are about to embark on your second year as a trainee, 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 against the backdrop of the Brexit negotiations.
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 4-5 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 2017 and 2018, firms retained and 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. 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.
How will Brexit impact these trends?
Of course, this remains to be seen. Following the Referendum in June 2016, there were concerns that firms would adopt a more conservative attitude towards NQ recruitment in the immediate aftermath of the result. We expected this approach may be particularly apparent within transactional teams.
However, this has not been the case. The message from most firms so far is that they continue to be busy and it remains very much ‘business as usual’. If anything, appetite to recruit NQs has only increased in the last two years. The demand to recruit has stemmed from a number of factors including natural attrition within teams, market buoyancy and, most reassuringly, the future pipeline of work.
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.
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