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

This month, we’re saying ‘congrats’ to those NQs who have already secured a position for September, and ‘best foot forward’ to those still looking…


The early bird catches the worm…

‘Manic’ would describe May – it moved fast! Lots of decisions were made, plenty of candidates are staying put with their firms having finally received official offers, and there was a very fast flurry of external hires at NQ level. Successful hiring activity was led by the larger commercial brands. Eversheds, I’d think, have been the biggest external hirer in the North that I know of, so full marks to them for moving their process forward efficiently.

Speed definitely counts, as firms who didn’t spark their NQ recruitment in May will now realise in June… a lot of the NQ candidates who have been watching the market since January have gone; certainly those with the highest demand for their skills have found homes one way or another. The early birds have got their spoils.


..but the second mouse gets the cheese.

The upshot of all of the above is that there is still persistent need within some excellent Legal 500 rated commercial firms, and in the major legal centres such as Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield. There are disappointed firms out there in the Top 50, and far more disappointed firms who are ranked lower than that.

Whilst they’ve made some external NQ appointments, the international brands have the pressure of work volume – meaning they need to still recruit. They might have lost the race for their first choice candidates by a small margin to a competitor brand, and some will have open roles because their NQs are jumping to London. I can guarantee that there are candidates yet to announce their departure, who are still covertly weighing up their options but ultimately will be resigning from an NQ role they have not yet even started!

The regional firms have lost some of their NQs because they were too slow to make their decisions, or simply because their offer was trumped by a bigger firm with higher NQ pay rates. Typically, NQs want the best career start they can get, and that will condense down to ‘a bigger firm, with better clients, on better money.’

I have seen people in previous years securing better roles in June and July than they’d have even got an interview for in April or May. At the risk of being crass about it, they stand to be regarded as the best of the candidates that are left to choose from. The clients who have experienced disappointment in their NQ recruitment tend to be that bit quicker and more eager, and appreciative of the candidates left to employ. In that regard, there is still every reason to be confident that, as an NQ, you’ll secure a role for September. There’s still stuff to be had in June, and you’ve less competition to beat than you did four weeks ago.


Best foot forward.

The richest pickings (by which I mean those c£40K NQ solicitor roles in the top brands) are reduced in number now, but there are still competitive rates around. Too often, candidates feel in some way defeated if they don’t get an NQ start in a big brand; but the main focus now needs to be on getting the best start possible, doing the right sort of work, and preserving as many career options as you can for 18-24 months hence.

Mid-tier firms are frequently the ‘feeder firms’ for the national brands. Time spent honing your skills, getting to learn at a more moderate pace, and benefiting from direct supervision by partners is all very worthwhile, and will certainly point you in the right direction. The benefits of being part of these firms need to be remembered, and certainly their plus points should be focused on at interview.

‘Best foot forward’ might be an old saying, but it is wholly appropriate right now for the NQs of 2017.


Are you starting to feel twitchy about finding your ideal NQ solicitor role in time for September? Download our free 2017 NQ Solicitors’ Survival Guide; browse through our NQ blog for hints, tips and insider information; or visit our Contact page to get in touch with a member of the Florit Brooke team.

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