I wanted to put pen to paper by way of an update on the 2023 NQ Market. Historically, year on year, by mid to the end of May the market has sprung fully into action and the purple patch of interviews for NQ job hunters has begun. The pattern emerging from all our consultants across the country is that this year law firms are slightly later in putting offers to trainees. This has meant we are seeing an unusually high number of really good quality candidates and at present a lack of job opportunities. The message coming through from clients is mixed with some reporting lower retention rates for NQ’s reflecting the reduced levels of opportunities at law firms and some reporting very good retention rates. Certainly what is clear is most clients are working on this later.
It remains a little early to report authoritatively if any potential downturn is going to be a permanent one. If it does, then maybe it is not entirely surprising given the ever-increasing NQ salaries at law firms over the last two years. To accommodate the increases, fee structures to clients have been increased, and with inflation these increases have reached a ceiling. Law firms are responsibly looking at costs, recruitment and headcount. Also, many firms have strengthened support and paralegal functions taking the edge off the pressure to retain junior fee earners.
The last time we really experienced a difficult NQ market was 2009-2010 but the market bounced back incredibly well in the following years. If you are an NQ at this point in time, I would encourage you to continue to pursue opportunities at your training firm and any offers to stay on should be seriously considered. If your hand is forced and you need to leave and look elsewhere my 5 key points of advice would be:
- If you can consider relocating to find the type of firm and work you want, then that would really help.
- Try to consider all firms and opportunities, not just the ones at similar sized firms. Seeking a job at a smaller or medium-sized firm can be a safe haven in a difficult market.
- Consider what other practice areas you might like if you cannot secure your preferred practice area.
- In a very competitive market ensure that you have a professional CV, LinkedIn profile and you are ready and well prepared for interviews.
- Keep very alert to the market and keep control of your recruitment process including where your CV is sent.
As I have stated law firms are acting later than normal so it isn't a time for alarm. At this stage, the most important thing is to keep an open mind on all firms and salaries.
For further information on the NQ market please contact myself.