Securing your NQ legal job:
Why you should consider working with a legal recruiter
What NQ legal job you decide to go for on qualiﬁcation, and how you go about it, are among the most important career decisions you will ever make as a second year trainee.
Obviously, if you’re ‘on a roll’ in your training contract and have secured an offer from a department (even if it’s just an informal “nod” at this stage) after your first two or more seats, it will have the effect of taking some of the pressure off. However, whatever your situation, if you and your fellow trainees are still rotating your seats, you can’t afford to relax completely until it’s all signed and sealed. You’ll have little if any control of the process in your firm (other than how you perform), and there will always be competition from your trainee colleagues. So, it’s not truly time to celebrate until your NQ legal job is formally offered and accepted. And as we all know, in some firms, it can take some months for that situation to become clear.
So, what do you do until then? You’ll probably have a fair amount of “real” work to do, and so making tentative applications to other firms may seem like the last thing on your mind. In fact, for the most part, with many it may still be too early. Additionally, what do you do if you don’t yet even know what that is you want to do? Many people who contact us for advice are still undecided way into the second year of their training contract.
On the one hand, besides reflecting on what it is you’ve enjoyed the most in your traineeship so far, you could perhaps take the advice of an independent mentor, who’s ‘been there and done it’. Another qualified solicitor in your firm, with at least a couple of years’ experience under their belt already, may be able to give you a different perspective and challenge your thinking – all the more so, if they have previously moved firms themselves or perhaps made the odd (minor) mistake, which you can learn from. Alternatively, or in parallel, you could also speak to an established legal recruitment firm with good contacts in your local market.
A well connected local recruitment consultancy can definitely help you, and there are lots of them to choose from! But why should you make contact with one? And how do you choose between them if you’ve never had to consider your future in as much depth before?
There are many benefits of using a recruitment consultant, but the principal ones relate to both your intended career direction and your level of success in the recruitment process.
As far as career direction is concerned, these are:
- Experience: If you’ve never worked in another law firm before, you won’t have much of an idea of what other firms are like – aside from the experiences you may have picked up from other trainees and NQs anecdotally, or from summer placements you undertook. An established recruiter will have many years’ experience of helping candidates choose between one firm and another, upon which you can draw.
- Foresight: Legal recruiters deal with ‘both ends’ of lawyers’ legal careers – from your ‘NQ legal job’ stage, right up to partner level. Because of that, their knowledge of how other careers have developed, provides a huge level of foresight – and this can be very helpful to you in making the right choices now, at this crucial stage in your career.
- Independence: If you haven’t got a mentor, or you simply feel uncomfortable discussing your likes, dislikes and intentions with colleagues, then a recruiter will be a totally independent sounding board for you, while you gather your thoughts.
Aside from helping you to decide which avenue to follow there are other more practical benefits.
The very obvious one is that they will know where the appropriate NQ legal jobs are, should you find that you need to move on, or would like to at least cover off your alternative options. But not only that. Recruiters are frequently instructed on opportunities which never actually get circulated widely in the open market, and which you might otherwise remain unaware of.
In purely ‘administrative’ terms, a recruitment consultancy will get candidates to clients faster and more effectively than they could manage themselves whilst managing a full time legal traineeship. They have existing relationships and have done this hundreds of times before, where you may not have.
Recruiters will know all the relative idiosyncrasies in the processes that each firm operates by. And they are all different! You shouldn’t have to be bothered with this. If you use a recruitment consultant, the effect will be to reduce the impact this process has on your time, and your other commitments. As a trainee, you may not have had much opportunity to delegate work – so start here and save yourself a lot of time.
Once an application has been made, a good recruiter will frequently influence a firm’s choice of which candidates to shortlist for interview for the various NQ legal jobs. They ask their trusted recruitment suppliers for their opinions on candidates, since they know we know what qualities are important to them. So it pays huge dividends if you can establish a good two-way relationship with a recruiter and work very closely with them.
The best recruitment consultants will help and support you through the entire process, from making you aware of all the relative idiosyncrasies from one firm to another, to polishing up your CV and preparing you to interview with confidence. At the other end of the process they’ll be able to advise you on the relative merits of two competing offers, beyond the obvious issue of remuneration. There are all sorts of reasons why you shouldn’t decide on a role just because of the money.
A legal recruiter is there fundamentally to give you an advantage as a candidate, and to make the whole process easier.
On our free online NQ Resource Hub, we go into a number of these issues in more detail, to help you get some perspective at what can be a stressful time. Our guides cover topics such as when to consider moving, how to decide what to specialise in and how to conduct the whole qualification exercise, including how to choose a recruiter to work with.
You can read and download our NQ resources free of charge here on our website.
Or if you prefer the one-to-one approach and would like to speak to someone, we’d be happy to chat on 0845 491 0012.