Securing your NQ legal job:
When should you first talk to a legal recruitment consultant as a trainee solicitor?
“Timing has always been a key element in my life. I have been blessed to have been in the right place at the right time”.
There is no definitive answer to the question of when you should first engage with a legal recruitment consultant. To a certain extent it will largely depend on market conditions when you qualify.
In general terms, the better the economic market conditions are, the earlier you can consider engaging with a recruiter. Law firms will generally be more confident in their recruitment planning, and tend to make earlier decisions and commitments.
As far as we can anticipate, the 2016 market will be very competitive and retention rates will also be high. We would suggest that trainee solicitors qualifying in the period between August and October 2016, contact a legal recruitment consultant from around February time. That way, you can get to know the person who will represent you, and develop a relationship of trust, before the market starts to get much busier in from April/May..
We advocate making time to meet one another where practicable. Also, you should not underestimate the time it might take for you to pull together the strongest possible CV. There is also a fair deal of information to become familiar with in a short period of time and so it is better to give yourself as much time as possible to get organised – so you’re truly ready. There is nothing worse than hearing your perfect job has been released when you’ve still not got your CV in the shape you’re happy with.
If you’re someone with paralegal experience prior to the commencement of your training contract, then you may be able to can get ‘time to count’ as a consequence of the additional experience you gained. In so doing, you could advance your qualification date by 6 months and enjoy an advantage over other trainees competing for the same NQ roles but who don’t qualify until the autumn.
There are a number of law firms who state they will not recruit NQ solicitors until they have made decisions on their own trainees. We know the firms and it’s our role to appraise you of each firm’s individual processes and timescales. However, please be aware that, in some instances, jobs are released early. This tends to happen in two main scenarios: firstly, where firms know they don’t have sufficient internal applicants; and, secondly where they have made a decision to relax a particular PQE requirement on a more senior role to accommodate a good NQ instead (eg where there has been a shortage of more senior candidates).
So, as you can see, there are plenty of reasons for making contact with a legal recruitment consultant early in the year in which you qualify and before the market starts to move more quickly in May and June.
If, for whatever personal reason, you weren’t able to take action during the February to June period, then all is not lost. There is usually a ‘secondary market’ which occurs in around August to September time. This is because some candidates have been known to accept an offer of a role with their current firm, which is really their second choice and then turn the role down in favour of their preferred choice later. If their first choice is not available for whatever reason, it’s natural for a trainee to want to keep looking whilst keeping their second choice as an ‘insurance policy’. The ‘secondary market’ is effectively the ‘ripple effect’ caused by trainees accepting what they perceive is a better offer after having accepted something they are not so keen on. Each year, new roles become available like this right up until the end of September. So, if you’ve still not found what you want, you may just be lucky once the summer period is over. Just stay in touch with your legal recruitment consultant and be patient.
A related question:
Can I look for a new position before I hear whether I have been offered one at my current firm?
At Florit Brooke we do advocate the benefit of remaining with a firm if it can offer you the work you want to do. You’ll know their systems, practices and personnel and can enjoy the continuity. It also looks good on your CV if you want to make your first career move later on, once qualified.
Unless you have been promised a position at your firm, and you’re convinced about accepting it, you do owe it to yourself to consider what else might be out in the market. After all, you might regret it if you missed out on an ideal opportunity because you were being unduly patient with your current firm.
Many trainees enter the market and are subsequently retained by their own firms and so exit the market quite quickly. We fully expect this. It’s a fact of life. Clearly, just exploring the market is a world away from committing to leave your current firm. If your job search is done by a reputable recruiter in a confidential way then there is very little risk of it adversely affecting your prospects of being retained on qualification.
If you are in doubt about timing your applications, just give us a call on 0845 491 0012 and we can give advice specifically tailored to you and your particular situation.
Alternatively, read more about the various things you’ll need to be aware of as a trainee solicitor heading up to qualification and how you can best work with a legal recruitment consultant. Then you’ll be fully appraised of how we can help you.
Remember: If you establish a relationship with a recruiter in January to March, just remember it can take at least couple more months before you will be immersed in interviews, because of the different ways each firm recruits its NQs.