Tony Brooke’s view: the NQ legal job market in March

Here we are again, March having been and gone, and things are happening in earnest now.

Florit Brooke have made a decent number of NQ placements in March, those being spring qualifiers who have finally found a berth (with sole traders through to Top 25 brands) and who now know what they’re going to be specialising in and where –  exciting times for those candidates, so congratulations to them.


A second wave of candidates

We have seen something of a second wave of September NQs making contact with us to register in March. I think this has come with the realisation that the market is moving, and, I am sure, in the awareness that their contemporaries are having dialogue with recruiters, which fosters that fear of being left behind. It is great for Florit Brooke as the more people who wish to engage with us the better, though I cannot help but think that my granting our Resourcer, Harriet, annual leave in March was an error on my part – she was missed at a very busy time of year!

It is evident that a few firms who anticipated ‘mid-March decisions’ have found it is taking a little longer than they anticipated to get their internal processes finalised. It isn’t a problem – a few weeks either way isn’t terminal – but as I write this in the first week of April I know several of the largest brands in Leeds are formalising their internal offers this week, or are on the cusp of declaring their needs.


The jobs flow is starting

We’re into a period now where there is a rapid evolution of the market week to week. Decisions will be made, offers put there to accept or decline, and subsequent circulation of other roles internally. The momentum has built in March, but April will reveal the answers.

We have seen a flow of instructions for September NQs, too: Real Estate, Construction, Corporate, Property Litigation and CDR have all been listed by firms as being of interest, as they won’t have internal options to put into those roles. It has been nice to see a spread across Leeds, York, Huddersfield, Newcastle and Manchester, and with a whole variety of firms; what is evident right now is that those firms are being quite exacting in what they want. They want a seat in the right discipline; they want a good brand; they want good academics, etc. etc., and this is normal. Despite being early in NQ season, what they will find is that they still need to be open minded and appreciative of candidates who don’t tick all the boxes.

It works both ways, in that at this time of year CVs get rejected that, come July, might appear highly attractive to a firm. Similarly, candidates might say “no thanks” at the moment to an opportunity that come June they’d kill for. Such is the value of hindsight, but it is what it is; every party needs to make their own judgement right now and be comfortable with that.


Just stay positive

Interestingly, this month I had a September qualifying candidate ask if I could “confirm what your fees are to a firm if they were to hire me?” That is a new one on me, and I admit it caused me to pause! We wanted to discuss firms, and so my presumption was that this candidate was wondering if he would be better remunerated if he applied directly and thus our fee wouldn’t be part of the calculation. That rationale might not be without logic, but I can assure everyone that there is an established market for legal recruiters at NQ level – we’re on preferred supplier lists, and firms do budget for this investment in their personnel. As it happens my cynicism was misplaced, as this candidate wanted to be sure that clients were being treated (in his view) ‘fairly’ if we were representing him, which I must say is not a stance I hear on a regular basis from candidate so credit to him.

As a point of close, I’ll reference the fairly grim headlines of the legal press this month – office closures, teams moving, various staff cuts and redundancies, and we’ve pressed the Brexit button too, with all that will follow that decision. From my perspective, I am not a fan of negative news since confidence is everything in the recruitment market. I’d say to those candidates approaching qualification that you should stay positive and not panic: keep focused on your choices, and have faith in a market which has proved very resilient and dynamic in recent years. Headlines aside the market is behaving well, so try not to get unduly riled by those events you cannot control – indeed, which none of us can control.


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