Tony Brooke’s view: The NQ solicitor job market in February 2018

Welcome to March, and welcome to our recipients (old and new) of our monthly NQ Bulletin. There’s always a good number of new sign ups in February and March, so by all means take what benefit you can from the collective content and don’t hesitate to contact us for specific discussion. And if you spot a role that interests you amongst our current NQ solicitor job listings, just drop us a line.


Believe it or not, there were instances last year of candidates contacting us off the back of those listed roles and getting the job they inquired about, and they were chuffed to bits with a £40K+ salary in their home city. So don’t forget: if you sign up to get our NQ Solicitors’ Survival Guide 2018 we’ll make sure you receive our monthly NQ Bulletin, too; or if you prefer you can sign up to our NQ Bulletin separately.


The market’s on the move

We’re placing 2018 NQs – that’s right, it is happening – and clients want more for September… so the market is stirring. THANK GOD, I say!! Whilst it is always bound to happen, it is still always an odd wait at the start of every calendar year – a bit like Christmas Eve in that everyone acts uber-confident that all will be delivered to plan, but a tiny bit of doubt always starts to creep in… there is always a quiet relief when it comes good once again.

From our discussions with clients it seems February has been a month of contrasts, but the main thing we are chasing is a sense-check on timing. If we approach clients with our candidates too early it aggravates them, and if we are too standoffish we miss out, so we’ve got to time things perfectly to give our candidates the best chance.


Clients are quick off the mark this year

One multi-site mid-tier Yorkshire commercial firm has apparently sorted their internal NQs already, and I welcome that as clarity will crystallize recruitment needs. It isn’t the same brand as we saw at this stage last year, so perhaps there is a strategy which is catching on here. Their early decision-making isn’t typical for regional firms, but this firm clearly wanted to try and prevent attrition through complacency – they’ve bowled offers and they tell me they have been accepted. Let’s hope they are strong offers, though, because the £40-43K NQ salaries are sure to hit the fan in coming months – and who’d blame an NQ for chasing an extra £5k?

Another single-site Leeds firm we deal with has offered roles to their internal people to secure their services beyond September. That doesn’t mean everything’s locked down, though: there is still some leeway for those candidates to choose between multiple disciplines internally, and, to be fair, this particular brand pays top-tier salaries so has less to be paranoid about in months to come.

A third directly comparable brand admits it will be September when they commit to their internal NQs. They also don’t compete that well financially… Good luck to them – I suspect their second year trainees will have flown the nest by that time!


Jobs lists are top of clients’ lists

‘End of February jobs list circulated’ was the quickest intent I’ve heard of a top 20 brand – they were aiming to be first in the northern market to declare their jobs internally, a similar ambition to ‘Houghton & Sunderland South’ constituency in the general election, though with genuine commercial merit! By the time I write next month’s update I’ll know if they managed that deadline.

‘Mid-April’ has been a more common response from firms in the Top 50 as to when they want to be in dialogue with their NQs. I have worked in this industry a long time and that feels a tad sluggish to me, but I’d rather my clients be thorough than rushed and unconsidered – so I’ll just have to be patient, like the candidates.


In other news…

Totally aside but still time relevant, in February we saw a client request an interview with a junior real estate lawyer within 3 minutes of us pressing ‘send’ on the CV email – I love a client who is keen to recruit. We also saw a national brand circulating jobs at 17:04 on a Friday – I mean come on, of all the times in the whole of the working week you have to send new stuff then – really?! Strangely the client didn’t answer when they were rung for info – I guess they have a weekend to begin. “Suck it up Brooke” I am thinking… rough with the smooth and all that…


It’s all in the timing – for candidates and clients

At this stage of the year, it really is all about timing. That there is such variance in the NQ retention strategies of firms who are in the same regional market is a real eye opener – both in terms of how firms feel they can and cannot commit, and quite how important this issue is for them. I always tell clients that retention as a strategy is always easier and cheaper than attracting new talent to their brand, and those who don’t share that mindset will no doubt be sweating come late summer when they’ve missed a market they could have been part of.

For now time is gone, February is complete and things are happening so I am looking forward to late March.. time to get to work.


Interested in Florit Brooke’s help navigating the NQ legal jobs market? Contact us to find out how we can work together.

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