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

March is done and dusted, we’re still in Europe (God knows how!) and the NQ market is moving reasonably well for 2019, which is good to see. From the conversations we’ve been having I’d say every Top 100 brand is in process, or has at least got as far as deciding its jobs lists…but to me it feels slightly sluggish…I can’t explain it…there’s just a lack of edge, a lack of urgency. The message we’re hearing fairly frequently is that “we expect to have more roles than 2nd year trainees” so I am eager for firms to get on with the decision making. (It is possible I am just impatient!)

Early September NQ placements

We have made our first September qualifier placements though – into Healthcare, and Pensions – both with Top 30 firms and both obviously niche but high demand areas. The interesting thing is that the candidates chosen are quite contrasting – the one for the former discipline has a high level of experience in the sector and is coming from a recognised firm. But the candidate for Pensions has a background with a general practice and zero practical experience in pensions at all and so represents a full retrain. In both instances the clients saw what they wanted, which with NQs is a mix of competency, commitment, and potential, and the balance of those qualities will vary firm to firm and role to role. So great news for those individuals, and all we need now is more clients coming to market who are committed to recruiting.

Systems can’t cope

With NQ candidates we’ve placed in March the firms wanted to be decisive and there was definitely a push to secure those NQs in recognition of it being a competitive market. Typically the larger corporate firms have systems and protocols, and a certain way of doing things by way of a recruitment process. Are those easy for us recruiters to follow? Not necessarily, they can be cumbersome and awkward and aggravating, and whilst the firms feel protected it can add to the stress for suppliers and yield some confounded outcomes.

I was pleased in March to see one of the leading firms abandoning (in reality, though that’s of course not the official line!) their online recruitment portal in favour of email submissions and phone follow up – their recruitment team is simply too busy to follow the protocols which they’ve beaten recruiters around the head with for years. A separate international firm have stuck with their mechanical process, but when the interviews are only being officially confirmed more than 48 hours after the candidates have been interviewed and offered then it really does seem to me that they should be looking at their system and changing it as it isn’t serving them as it should.

I live in hope that we’ll come full circle and that the more traditional methods of submitting CVs (ie email) will see a revival…fingers crossed…there does seem to be society wide trend of simplifying life after all.


Perhaps the best news from March is that NQ salaries in the regions are going up in 2019 – HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY! From what I am hearing 10% rises are not out of the question so that bodes very well for the 2019 NQ crop, and there’ll have to be a kick on up through the PQE levels to avoid bunching at the base of the pay scales within firms. Stronger salaries are a good indicator of confidence, and they put life into the market which is great for recruiters like me and also great for the lawyers themselves.

So as of the close of March it’s a positive outlook. We have remained (for now) in the EU (its likely not long term but with luck it’ll get us all through the summer holidays without major travel disruption), wages are going up, and we’ll forecast a busy April.

As every year at this time we need more NQ candidates – there are great roles appearing and we can’t fill them if we don’t have the individuals on our books, so if you do know of anyone in your network then please do point them our way as we’ll be pleased to assist them with options.

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