Tony Brooke’s view: the NQ solicitors jobs market in June 2019

The NQ jobs market has peaked…

I hate statistics, but here are a few to chew on: 19% of the jobs into our business in January were for NQs. It was up to 37% in March, and just under 40% of the new instructions we took in May. June saw a slight drop to 32% of new roles being for NQs. On a straightforward count basis there were more than three times as many NQ roles released to us in May as at the start of the year – it was the highest number of NQ roles in any month thus far in 2019 and, from the decrease we saw in June, I’d say that the market has hit its peak.

Which firms are releasing the NQ roles?

Of the NQ job instructions in January 25% were from Top 20 firms, 12.5% from other firms in the Top 100, and 62% were from firms outside the Top 100. March comparatively was similar for Top 20 brands representing only 13% of the NQ roles, and still the highest percentage of NQ instructions (43%) were from firms outside the Top 100. Then May saw a massive increase to 50% of NQ roles from Top 20 brands, which rose again to 60% in June. In May, 38% were for firms from outside the Top 100 and in June 26% of NQ roles were from that same tier.

The long and short is that, as usual, the largest firms with their systems and protocols come to market at roughly the same time once their internal processes have been completed, and we see a feeding frenzy of NQ activity at those top firms. These firms know they have needs, but act at their own pace. Prior to them getting into gear we’ve seen other well rated but less constrained firms come to market in anticipation of capitalising on available talent early in the season, usually because they are struggling to recruit junior lawyers or have too small a trainee base of their own to meet their needs.

The other thing to point out is that regional firms are prepared to brief recruiters for NQs at the time when bigger firms are tight lipped, so there’ll be some impact on figures for that – our stats are roles released to us, which is slightly different from actual roles being dealt with internally.

Direct sourcing, or agency supply?

Some of the biggest firms have sourced some NQs directly – just like agency recruiters, they sponsor JLD events and use LinkedIn to build contacts and then use those methods to engage with NQs. Fortunately for we agency recruiters the internal recruitment teams realise just how fraught and disparate such efforts can be, and so we get our share of invitations to supply candidates in a fast-moving market where agents are typically more competitive than in-house recruitment teams. What we’re seeing now is the realisation that the quickest way to get a shortlist is to instruct recruiters such as Brooke Thornham, who have the candidates and have maintained the communication.

I do think every year that in-house recruiters looking to direct source really are chasing the pennies and missing the pounds, relatively speaking. Say the recruiter fee is £8K for an NQ. The candidate will be expected to bill perhaps up to £180K in year one, which equates to £15K/month. This means that in two weeks that candidate will have pretty much covered the recruitment fee. Is it really worth it for internal recruiters to try so hard to find candidates that the agents have on their books? Surely they’d be better spending their time and focus on resourcing roles for more senior lawyers where candidates are less available and yet where those lawyers already have strong skills and can perform to higher targets?

So we’ve witnessed a change in the supplier relationship with the larger firms in May and June, from direct sourcing efforts to positive engagement with their approved suppliers. For us it’s a great time of year for those September qualifiers who’re still in the market, indeed some have more opportunities than they can handle!

Winners and losers?

As ever it’s a stressful time, and NQs in May and June have been finding options and grabbing opportunities; some making good choices and others sadly making compromises out of fear. Intriguingly now, the candidates who were perhaps overlooked in the spring are now the best ones left for clients to choose from, and they are enjoying the selection of opportunities with the larger firms. It’s always an emotional rollercoaster for NQs, but some of those who have kept the faith and endured real frustration and anxiety are now in high demand and feeling a wave of optimism.

For those who might have made a hasty choice: GIVE US A CALL. Don’t take yourself out of the market too quickly, and don’t have regrets about not holding out for your ideal opportunity. If you’ve got a role you’re safe, but you can still hear about other things between now and September. And if you don’t have a role yet, talk to our experienced team today on 0113 487 3080.


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