Opinion | 19-01-15

New Year – the new Qs

We are currently firmly in the “NQ season” hiring season. During this time, soon to be newly qualified (NQ) solicitors wait with bated breath to see what options will be available to them in March from their current firm. It is an exciting yet slightly nervy time, but a good time to raise your head above the parapet and see what else is out there.


It is a good idea to consider your options early and start to look at what’s available in the market before you hear what your current firm is looking to offer you. There are two major reasons for this. 


Firstly, the decision you make at this point will impact your career going forward and it's important to know all the options. If and when you receive an offer from your current firm, how do you know that this is best opportunity if you haven’t seen what else is out there? The second reason is far more pragmatic: you should be prepared for the eventuality that your firm might not be able to offer you either your first choice or even a place at all. Whilst no one ever thinks it will happen to them, every year there are inevitably some who don’t get their first choice or don’t even get retained. Being prepared and having other options in your pipeline will shield you from disappointment and potentially secure your first choice practice area so you don’t have to settle for second best. 


In order to make the best career choice, you must arm yourself with knowledge. Ask yourself what is important to you and then see if it might be possible to achieve this more easily somewhere else. Every firm and in-house legal team varies in culture, progression prospects, work life balance and remuneration. Whatever it is that drives your career choices, the opportunities are out there. 


The time to begin the process is now. Many trainees waste crucial time waiting for an offer from their current firm that could be used to take some preliminary steps, for example, getting your CV up to date and speaking to a legal recruitment consultant. Working with a recruitment consultant allows you to get a full overview of the market and can save you time from approaching firms directly, as many do not openly advertise newly qualified vacancies. The skilled recruitment consultant will be able to advise you on which firms are looking, where your skill set is most in demand and your interview technique. Equally importantly, a good consultant will guide you through the entire interview process, including advising you objectively on the respective merits of different prospective new employers. 


This year we are busier than ever with NQ roles and our consultants are currently working with over 20 law firms looking to hire at this level. These range from US and magic circle practices to smaller City and West End practices, boutiques and leading regional players.  The mainstream practice areas like corporate and finance make up the bulk of the opportunities; however lawyers with niche skills are certainly in demand. Also in areas such as litigation there are many boutique practices doing top quality work able to offer places that many of the larger full service firms can’t. However, although there are litigation and employment opportunities available, these continue to be over-subscribed, particularly in the larger firms where there are high numbers of trainees.  If you want to qualify into these areas, this is yet another reason to look outside your current firm as there are likely to be more people looking for these roles than there are roles on offer.


In addition to the above opportunities, our interim solutions team is also working on interim NQ roles. In the years gone by, the interim market was not really an option for a newly qualified lawyer because firms needed temporary or short-term contract workers to be able to hit the ground running and take a project forward immediately. However, during the downturn many firms retained fewer trainees and now, with the recovery continuing and the increase in work, firms have found a gap in their resource at the junior level. Working as an interim is certainly an option to consider as it gives you the chance to try out various roles in different firms. With so many opportunities available and only two months until March qualification, now is certainly THE time to start considering your options. Our team has an excellent track record of placing lawyers with all the leading firms and across a variety of practice areas and they will help you to secure the right opportunity. We also have a dedicated NQ guide which is very helpful for lawyers about to qualify. It contains everything that you need to know about the recruitment process and highlights different options that might be available to you. For more information please contact Chris Mayo via email on [email protected]