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

There are three qualities I look for in every candidate, be they NQ or Partner: Competency, Commitment, and Collaboration.

The ‘3 Cs’ are applicable at every stage throughout the process of us working with a candidate, especially right at the start of the relationship when someone first wants to work with us. No matter how a recruiter frames it, they’re assessing every candidate they meet against this framework, as are employers at the interview stage – and, to be fair, I’d imagine that candidates want to be convinced by employers on a not dissimilar level.

These qualities are always in the forefront of my mind – but this month, as I look back at the NQ solicitor job market in May, I’m also thinking about a different ‘3 Cs’…



It has been a messy month in May, firstly with firms offering roles externally at the same time as still addressing their own internal candidates. It creates a rather confused message which we’re frequently asked to interpret by candidates wondering what is going on!

The other confusion in May has been the frequency of ‘agency wrangling’ – candidates hedging their bets between different legal recruiters and not keeping track of the opportunities they are given. This originates from disorganised candidates who either don’t know what agents are doing for them or don’t think it has any consequence.

It’s a nightmare for everyone when this happens: clients feel confused, recruiters feel embarrassed, and candidates have to re-establish credibility when a prospective employer has received multiple applications on their behalf – often it raises serious questions over that applicant’s ability to stay organised and to manage multiple relationships.

We had this twice with the same candidate this month – which, given that he was with a leading brand, was unusual almost to the point of being unbelievable. Rest assured, though, there is an easy fix – be conscientious and communicate better.



An odd word to follow my paragraph above, but clarity has been the overwhelming development in May. For many candidates there have been months of angst during the application and interview process, which is now behind them as firms have crystallised their offers. And the kick-on from that is the external release of roles without hindrance, with firms genuinely motivated to decisively shortlist, interview and move to offer.

This month we’ve seen Top 50 firms instruct us for NQs, and within two weeks they have given offers – such is their realisation now that the talent which has hung around to engage with since the start of 2018 is rapidly disappearing.

Everyone has been desperate for clarity: candidates wanting opportunities; recruitment teams wanting permission to go external to source; partners wanting the assurance of knowing they’ve got the right talent committed to their team; and we recruiters who are best able to act in a market where everyone knows and agrees how to proceed.

Everybody loves clarity – it is a great friend to recruitment, and finally it is in the ascendancy.



A big well done to all those 2018 NQs who are now sorted for roles – feelings of relief and excitement and an element of self-congratulation wouldn’t be inappropriate. If any of you have not given your recruiters an update yet then I’d recommend you do so – otherwise, you’ll see them frantically chasing you as they still think you might be interested in opportunities. It is a good thing to proactively close off the relationships with recruitment advisors in a controlled manner, so you can pick those dialogues up again in the future when you’re thinking about your next career move.

What certainly isn’t appropriate would be any commiserations for those candidates who are still in the market. The good thing right now is that opportunities are flowing for a decreasing number of NQs, and so your likelihood of being shortlisted is much greater than it was 4-6 weeks ago – there’s no need to panic or feel ‘left behind’ in any way.

From here, I’d recommend staying focused on your specialism, and be open minded on your strategy as to how to take your career forward. It is very rare that we see candidates not securing something which will take them that next step in the career direction they wish to follow, so there’s still plenty of time in a quick-moving NQ market for positive things to happen between now and September.

Forget the time up until this point – it is how you behave in the market now that makes the difference. That is very much down to you, and we’re here to help.


Interested in Brooke Thornham’s help navigating the NQ solicitor job market? Contact us to find out how we can work together.

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