Tony Brooke’s view: the NQ legal jobs market in June

Relief for many …

in all honesty, fortunes for June have been mixed – I am not sure that the election has helped market confidence, which is such a valuable commodity when it comes to recruitment. The good thing about June is that it is always a month of decisions, and this year has followed that pattern.

I’ve had a very significant number of “thanks for your support, but I am staying where I am” conversations this month – it’s great news that NQs can take that continuity with their employer and practise in their chosen field. By now, most candidates just want the relief of having a role as it isn’t a lot of fun not having that job certainty for September.

When you like your employer and wouldn’t leave unless you had to, it might feel like you’ve been slighted if they don’t immediately offer to retain you when NQ recruitment season starts, but when they finally get around to offering you a role, be pleased about it and celebrate. There is no snub in it being later than your contemporaries might have experienced with their firms; it is just a case of circumstances, so don’t let any built-up anxiety take away from your satisfaction at being retained.

Placement turnaround has been quick in June: clients know what they want and are committed to finding their ideal NQs, and candidates have a keen appetite, so it is a perfect match. The quickest we’ve had this year thus far is 5 working days between the NQ vacancy instruction coming to us and the offer being made. (Incidentally, my record is a 3-day turnaround from onboarding the candidate to them being offered a role… but clearly it is pleasingly unusual, otherwise I’d not remember it!)

 

…some late disappointments…

I was surprised to get a flurry of calls from big-firm candidates (who, pleasingly, had been referred to Florit Brooke by their HR personnel) who had trusted in their firms’ systems and been left with nothing. I can’t really explain it, other than it being a mismatch between market demand for certain disciplines and lack of interest in others. Circumstance is always market-led, but if you’re with a Top 20 firm that can’t offer you what you want then the chances are that it’s reflected in the broader market.

Pleasingly, brand will always sell, and so most of this candidate group have been quickly shortlisted and are sorted fairly quickly. I’d not say there’s a lesson to learn from this, other than that the candidates acted very quickly when they realised they were high and dry and got involved in the market before they were completely stuck. It pays to be proactive.

 

…and regrets for a few…

Contrasting with those very positive candidate conversations, I’ve also had a notable number of negative ones, which are unfortunate and never pleasing to hear:

“I’d have loved to look at that opportunity, but I’ve already accepted something and I don’t feel I should change my mind so soon.”
“I think I’ve made a mistake accepting the role with my current firm as it isn’t really what I wanted.”

What I’d advise for anyone feeling that way now is look after yourself. If you’ve not started your new role then, in theory, significant financial investment has not yet been made, inductions haven’t been conducted, recruiters have not been invoiced, and clients have not yet been introduced to you. The reality is that, at this stage you can still do something about it – and if you’re worried you’ve made the wrong call you should do something about it or you will regret it.

The key is to act quickly, covertly, and, if you are successful in securing a preferred opportunity, to handle it as professionally as possible. Sure, it will never be an easy conversation with a firm and you will be off their Christmas card list for a while, but it is a big market and you owe it to yourself to get the right start to your career.

 

Keep calm and carry on.

There is too much candidate panic around for my liking. We know NQ lawyers who were dead set on a career in contentious law going on interview in property; I have other candidates interviewing for entirely different ends of the legal spectrum just because the opportunity is there. Flexibility is one thing, but desperation is another.

You need to maintain focus. Identify the key parameters of the roles you would consider, and know what would be an absolute deal breaker which you could not reconcile. And, relating back to my section above, if you do secure a position out of desperation, I’d recommend not withdrawing from the market; rather, you should stay in it and assess what is happening through July and August.

 

Expect a shorter blog from me next month to summarise July. That’s not a sign of less activity in the market, but because I’m taking annual leave so I’ll naturally have less to say… you lucky people!!

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