Tony Brooke’s view: the NQ solicitor jobs market in April 2019

Anthony Brooke

Some doors closing…

We’re at the sharp end of the market as April closes and May arrives, and a good number of firms have been working to a deadline of resolving their internal processes for the close of April. Many of the nationals are done internally, though one of my clients had 4 great candidates wanting one field so revisited their national business case to try and retain all four rather than the original 2 in budget. One of the leading Leeds firms has offered all 15 of their 2019 NQs which is fantastic. So there are lots of indicators of a good retention rate, and still jobs to come. Aligned to firms closing their internal processes three things happen…

Firstly quite a significant number of candidates drop out of the market to remain where they are with their current employer having had the reassuring news that they have a home upon qualification. Congratulations to those people, it is great to enjoy continuity and to be rid of the anxiety which surrounds qualification. So the candidate base to recruit from is becoming smaller. In real terms it means that shortlists for interview get reduced very quickly and some firms will have to go back to review the remaining CVs in order to field an interview shortlist at all.

Secondly (and somewhat perversely given my above comment) there is typically a bit of a ripple of panic amongst NQs who haven’t yet found something. If friends and colleagues are sorted and you are not then I’d say it is much too early for panic. Stay calm, accept that the market is active and stay optimistic and engaged. Do not despair! And certainly don’t make reckless and desperate decisions as we’ve a full 4 months until September and that is plenty of time.

Yet others doors are definitely opening…

And thirdly firms will come to market with unfilled roles, partly because they have got clarity but also in many instances because politically they are now free to engage with external candidates without being criticised internally or destabilizing their own trainee contingent.

Some firms are staunchly ‘anti-external candidate’ until around about now, and from this point onward the market tends to loosen up a it. Recruitment teams realise they need to show some urgency as candidate stocks fall, and partners who want talent turn up the heat on the process because any failure to recruit will be directly detrimental to the welfare of their team and also prospectively to client service levels. Sure recruitment teams want to fill roles, but the front line impact is the problem of the partners.

Bad behaviours bred of desperation

The downside of a more tightly wound market is a routine decline in candidate behaviours, which is unfortunate but comes from desperate activity and fear.

The number of candidates who make contact but then don’t follow through to engage fully is relatively high in April, and that’s quite a waste of time and entirely down to candidate panic. The number of instances of candidates being closed and protective as oppose to open and collaborative with us is higher in April. “Oh, actually I was speaking to someone else about this, I just forgot to tell you” echoes around the room quite a lot! It becomes a ‘taker’ attitude from transient candidates, rather than a constructive working relationship with more stable candidates who are calm and rational.

What we at Brooke Thornham are trying to do is foster an open dialogue, and that needs us to be honest and necessitates candidates being open. When the communication drops, or worse still when communication is selective then it erodes the relationship. Naturally we push hardest the candidates who are working best with us, but we will still aim to be objective and fair.

I would encourage all NQs to try and ensure they’re keeping the right attitude to the recruitment market and towards the consultants who’re working with them, and just stay focused. As I see it, being the “best of the rest” is actually quite a strong position to be in!!

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