Should I stay or should I go? The pros and cons of applying outside your NQ training firm

As part of our NQ blog series, we thought it would be helpful to lay out how and why candidates are finding their way to the NQ legal job market and, ultimately, ending up in the interview process.


It’s a conflicting time for trainee solicitors, with many struggling with feelings of disloyalty to their current firm if they do decide to consider other options. Candidates I work with find themselves on the hunt for an NQ role for many reasons, and I hope this blog will offer some reassurance if any of the following scenarios resonate with you.

If your current firm can’t provide

Several candidates I’m working with have already established that they won’t have a role with their current firm for September, and are exploring other opportunities on the market instead. The reasons why this scenario can arise are many and varied: for some, their current firm hasn’t been able to offer them the discipline they absolutely have their heart set on; others might have lost out on a lottery if there aren’t enough NQ positions for every trainee; and others may just have been told there won’t be a role for them.

If you’re a candidate in this position, beginning the NQ application process can feel a little daunting if it wasn’t the path you’d have picked by choice. However, it does make process of moving on much more straightforward than if you’ve set out to ‘shop around’ for external roles: there are no awkward internal conversations to have, or ‘dentist’s appointments’ to leave the office for, as most firms will be happy for you to take time off to attend interviews with a view to securing that all-important NQ role.

If you’re weighing up your options

Some candidates are confident (or have already been told) that they will have a role within their current firm for when they qualify in September, but feel that they’d like to explore alternative options. You may have been at the same firm for quite some time: if you’ve also worked as a paralegal prior to commencing your training contract then you might have been with just one firm for your entire career so far.

Guess what? If you just want a change, that’s fine! Being with the same firm for a long period of time can start to feel stagnant after a while: you might just want to dip your toe in the water and see what other firms are like by interviewing with them; or, alternatively, you might be completely fixed on making a move to an alternative firm that can offer a different culture, work/life balance or sector focus. It’s normal to look at alternative options: you can’t put all your eggs in one basket, and you should take proactive steps to help you secure the NQ position that you really want.

If you’re weighing up your options, the only caveat I would offer is this: if you do enter the interview process with another firm, then manage the acceptance or rejection of that offer as professionally as possible. You might realise in the process that now isn’t the right time for you to move on, but you may well want to join that firm in a couple of years – don’t burn your bridges now and regret it later.

If you’re looking further afield

I’m currently working with several trainee solicitors who headed out of the region to secure their training contracts, and who are hoping to relocate back home when they qualify in September. In most cases, these trainee solicitors’ current firms are aware (and supportive) of their ambitions to make the move home, and are flexible in allowing time off for interviews. Conversely, some candidates’ current firms aren’t currently aware of their aims to relocate – it’s OK, though: you’re by no means obliged to disclose if this is something you’re thinking of doing.

Most candidates I work with who are in this situation enter the application process with their training firm just in case they can’t secure anything back home. This is sensible as it gives you a back-up option if your move falls through or you change your mind, but again, it’s important to remember not to burn any bridges and to manage each process as professionally as possible.


If you’re feeling guilty about looking for alternative roles and interviewing elsewhere, my message is: don’t. Whilst it’s commendable to display loyalty to your current firm, you’re still at the start of your career and it’s important that you secure the best NQ role for you. Whatever your reasons for coming to market at the moment, and whatever worries or doubts you’re having about the application process, we can provide you with the advice and guidance to help you secure that all-important first NQ solicitor job.

Please do get in touch if you’d like to discuss your options further – just give us a call or drop us a note via our Contact page. And for more information that could help in your search for an NQ role, take a look at our FREE NQ Resource Hub.

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