2016 Regional Market for Newly Qualified Solicitors

2016 Regional Market for Newly Qualified Solicitors

2016 Regional Market for Newly Qualified Solicitors

2016 Regional Market for Newly Qualified Solicitors.

by Jason Nottage, Director Origin Legal


As reported in my 2015 NQ update, the legal NQ recruitment market in the Midlands has changed substantially from previous years and continues to surprise already in 2016. Historically if we look back to pre-recession the NQ market would not start gathering pace until June, July, August. Fast forward to 2016 and we are placing September NQ solicitors as early as January and February. Demand is driven as firms look to attract the best NQ solicitors possible. Retention rates for 2016 at law firms shows all the signs of remaining high and law firms are increasingly trying to organise their internal applications early as the demand for good NQ Solicitors appears greater than ever.

Historically firms would look to allocate their internal recruits first and then fill the left over positions externally, sometime close to September. This would mean July and August were really fast moving for the NQ market. Interview processes could be rushed and candidates could feel pressured into making a decision. The stress of this situation could lead to NQ’s accepting jobs in a hurry and changing their mind. It was never the best situation for law firms or candidates to make important career and lifestyle decisions in a hurry.

Qualifying today

The landscape has really changed  as we move into 2016. Law firms are interested in securing the pick of candidates earlier and have released September NQ positions as early as January. September can seem a long time away but there are some real advantages to candidates making their decision early.  For example, if candidates are able to secure a position earlier in the year you are then able to shape your final seat at your training firm to the role you are accepting at your current firm or new firm.

Candidates have been able to secure double seats in their chosen area on qualification to help give them greater experience in their chosen discipline. Another massive development is that a greater number of candidates are transferring the final part of their training contract to their new firm. This allows you to intergrate with your new team, clients, and even new location before you start as a solicitor. In a repeat of 2015 the demand for this situation is happening particularly within Corporate and Commercial Property areas where supply outstrips demand.

If your training firm offers you an NQ role and you are comfortable that it is the best place for you to develop in your chosen practice area, your decision is simple, but resist the temptation to stay just because it is convenient.  These early years of your career are vital in shaping your future so, with demand for good NQ’s high, it might be wise to at least consider whether there are better alternatives elsewhere. 

September 2016

2015 saw an unprecedented early demand for Commercial Property, Planning, Construction and Corporate Finance solicitors. 2016 doesn’t appear to be any different. Already a high number of NQ candidates have informed me that they have been offered a position to be retained by their current practice and firms have released an unusually high number of positions in January and February that they would like to source candidates for.

The direction this situation is moving continues to offer multiple benefits to trainee solicitors.  It is likely NQ’s will have a strong chance of being retained at their current firm in their chosen practice area. The options for NQ’s to secure a position within their chosen practice area and also their geographical location has increased even if this means moving firms. One of the biggest benefits of the modern day NQ market is the fact that by starting much earlier in the year it allows both trainees and law firms to explore options in detail without the pressure and stress of time. The way the market is now it should no longer be an anxious period for trainee solicitors, NQ solicitors have been able to take control or their situation and be a lot more proactive about finding that perfect job.

This year we have noticed a big increase in the diversity of opportunities open to NQ solicitors. NQ’s can now choose to qualify into private practice, in-house, or local government and can target locations across the UK or internationally. Our International recruitment specialist Jason Horobin says the international market for NQ’s from good regional practices has continued to grow.

What do you need to do?

September 2016 NQ Timetable:

January / February

Engage a good and experienced recruitment consultant. Ask friends for referrals; speak to previous year Trainees and find out who they would recommend; look for specialists in your market. A good recruiter will be able to advise you on the range of opportunities available and the best way of going about securing a position. Try to start the process of making internal applications to the jobs you want at your training firm.

Start thinking about the area of law that you would like to practice and the locations you would like to work in. Try and engineer discussions with your training firm about your final seat. Try to make that seat work for you and your chosen practice area on qualification.

Prepare your paperwork. Work with your recruiter to produce a strong CV that is tailored to the roles and locations you are targeting. Consider including a profile that highlights your motivations and career ambitions. Also consider who you will use as referees and make sure your academic certificates are accessible in case needed. 

March / April / May

Continue to investigate internal applications. Ensure you have a strong LinkedIn profile which will be viewed by potential employers to support your application. Add a professional picture to your LinkedIn profile if needed and try to ensure good professional content on your page. Your linked In profile is the main access point to your information alongside your CV. It is equally as important.

Try to focus on the geographical areas and specific discipline you are looking for. Make applications and attend interviews in these areas. Hopefully with some detailed interview coaching and support from your recruitment consultant you can secure the position you want.            


If you have not secured a position in your chosen location / discipline continue to keep a watching eye on your local market. Also this is the time to widen the search into different geographical areas or a 2nd choice discipline.


If you are still available in August widen your search with recruiters to ensure you are visible for when those final September positions are released.


Start your new position.

Current September Vacancies

Nottingham       NQ Commercial, NQ Commercial Property

Leicester            NQ Commercial Property

Birmingham        NQ Commercial Property, NQ Planning,

Lincoln               NQ Commercial Property

Milton Keynes    NQ Property Litigation Multiple NQ Commercial Property

Northampton      NQ Agriculture         

Oxford              NQ Corporate

International      NQ Banking and Finance, NQ Commercial Litigation, NQ Corporate

For a confidential conversation about the NQ market Please contact Jason Nottage:

[email protected] 01206 233 503


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