When should you speak to a legal recruiter? Our advice for NQ solicitors qualifying this year

Having worked in a Private Practice law firm in Leeds for over four years, followed by three years’ experience as a legal recruiter, I feel well placed to give advice in the legal world. I’ve been on both sides of the legal jobs fence and I know the tips to take and the pitfalls to avoid.


So, with the market moving rapidly, I would like to shed a bit of light on the best time to get in touch with a legal recruiter to give you the best chance of landing your ideal NQ solicitor job in 2018.

February is an interesting time and potentially worrying time for NQ solicitors making that first step post-qualification. But there’s every reason to feel positive: the mornings are getting brighter, the days are getting longer, and the NQ job opportunities are getting more numerous… it’s still freezing, but we do live in Yorkshire!


Speaking to a legal recruiter – it’s all about timing

To quote Craig David’s new album ‘The Time is Now’ (I’m so millennial!), get a coffee booked in with a trusted advisor as soon as you can. It is better to be having conversations early and to suss out a person you feel can provide you with genuine opportunities in the market.

But different types of legal firms tend to work on different timescales for recruiting their NQs, so how early is early?


When should you start approaching top 20 legal firms?

Top 20 firms will probably make decisions about their own NQs in February, March and April. Generally, they don’t struggle to recruit and so they tend to make decisions sooner than the mid-tier. They have the added bonus that they can then look at the market externally and release jobs as appropriate.

As a result, if you are looking at a role as an NQ solicitor in a Top 20 firm, the time to start speaking to a recruiter and booking in that initial coffee is right away – a huge amount can happen between now and September. A professional recruiter will listen and ensure you are choosing a role which will develop you properly and professionally in the long term.


When should you start approaching mid-tier legal firms?

Generally, the mid-tier firms tend to decide on their NQ intake later than those in the top tier. This can be frustrating for NQs, as you will be wanting a firm offer come September. But that doesn’t mean things aren’t moving already, and trends can most certainly be bucked if firms are looking for something specific and someone with a skillset they need. This week, I have had a client say that they have already made their offers to their current trainees and we are only in February. Admittedly, it’s likely they are getting ahead of the curve so as to retain as many people as possible, but the NQ job market in the mid-tier is definitely moving already.

The fact that mid-tier firms are typically later to decide means that, if they haven’t got a commitment from their own NQs, it’s likely that roles may come up early in the season. But don’t panic about missing opportunities – if you already have a CV that is ready to go, you shouldn’t panic.


What’s the next step? Your CV.

We have seen the NQ job market moving in February, and it will certainly gather momentum in March as we come in to spring. Moreover, at this point there will be March qualifiers to add to the mix. And September qualifiers with a three-month notice period will be able to commit to a role as early as May or June!

Therefore, if you are looking at the market and you have a CV document which is ready to go, start having those conversations as soon as you can with a legal recruiter you can trust. The market will move and it won’t wait for you: last year, there were countless instances of NQ solicitors moving and appearing in new firms despite the firms saying initially there weren’t positions for NQs. Spend time on your CV – it’s your opportunity to sell yourself, and it’s something we’ll be discussing on the blog in more detail soon.


Looking for a legal recruiter? Talk to Florit Brooke!

If you’re looking for support finding your first NQ role, do speak to us to find out how we can help – Harriet, Tony and Gemma are always happy to have a conversation over a coffee/glass of red! We recommend getting in touch before the market gets really busy in April and May, but we are always happy to give professional help and advice.

And don’t forget that our NQ Solicitors’ Survival Guide 2018 is still available to download for free – get the guide today.

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