Are you a trainee solicitor qualifying in 2020, but need more advice? If so, then this valuable guide – providing information on the current legal market, qualifying and practising offshore, data protection, the recruitment process and more.
Read on for advice, tips and things you should consider to set yourself on the right path for a successful, long-term legal career.
UPDATE ON LEGAL MARKET FOR 2020 NQ SOLICITORS
Now that the government have secured a successful majority, it is looking likely that the uncertainty
With all the uncertainty surrounding 2019, we may have expected to find a high number of trainees qualifying without being retained or hired elsewhere. This, however, didn’t happen. Retention rates were very high, and we encountered far fewer trainee solicitors looking at options, many having decided early to remain with their principle training firm.
Now 2020 is shaping up to be a landmark year for the legal profession. This is because it is the first time in history the UK should have 200,000 solicitors admitted to the role, with 150,000 of them practising. The expansion of the profession has been phenomenal since August 2011, when the UK had 160,000 qualified solicitors and 122,000 practising. With another 6,000-7,000 trainees coming through in 2020, the profession remains a positive career choice.
This growth has been fuelled by the increasing number of options open to solicitors with roles in private practice, commerce and industry, local government, offshore and internationally and in the “next” generation, alternative law firms. With such a wealth of options open to NQs, it is important to shape your decisions at the front end of your career.
One of those options for ambitious, entrepreneurial lawyers with a few years’ experience under their belt is the next generation law firm. Until recently lawyers looking for an alternative to private practice would set up their own firm. Today, and in increasing numbers, they head to new age firms like Keystone Law which frees them from the administration and compliance that goes with running a business.
In the words of James Knight, CEO of Keystone Law: “Our lawyers receive all the support and infrastructure that they need together with the flexibility and autonomy they crave. This leaves them free to do what they do best which is helping clients. It’s also what they enjoy most so that makes for avery happy law firm”.
The OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEWLY QUALIFIED SOLICITORS IN 2020
During 2020 and the coming years we are likely to see an increase in instructions within the Midlands and the North. With the Conservative win and their comprehensive defeat of Labour, the UK could expect to see an increase in government funding outside the M25 within infrastructure, technology and development as the conservatives look to consolidate the seats they have won within northern Labour heartlands. This is likely to produce substantial volumes of work for the legal profession in the regions. Several firms are already increasing their presence in the North and Scotland; the practice of “North-Shoring” (shifting work from the South to North in order to save money) is being seen more widely in these locations and with it the demand for new and recently qualified solicitors.
SECURING THAT CRUCIAL FIRST POSITION AS AN NQ SOLICITOR
All of the changes that we have experienced in the last five years are looking set to remain as the process of securing an NQ position has been brought forward. As in previous years, many law firms are increasingly keen in securing their best trainees on qualification as early as possible. Some trainees have reported having had a ‘tap on the shoulder’ to consider jobs as early as January and February for the September qualifiers.
At the moment, September can seem a long time away, however there are definitely some real advantages to making decisions early. If you secure your position in January or February, it provides a chance for you to influence your final seat to be beneficial to your new position (whether at your current firm or a new employer).
If you have been successful in securing double seats in your chosen practice area, that will give you a clear advantage during the process of getting your first position alongside a greater level of experience and confidence when you start.
We are continuing to see a number of trainees transferring the final part of their training contract to their new firm if they choose to leave. This allows candidates the chance to integrate with their new team over the summer before starting their life as a solicitor.
If your training firm does offer 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. The early years of your career are vital in shaping your future, so with demand for good NQs high, it may be wise to at least to consider whether there are better alternatives elsewhere.
There are numerous personal and career drivers to consider when entering the job market but 3 questions that I always ask are:
1 - Is the role within the practice area I really want?
2 - What is the quality and scope of ongoing training on offer?
3 - Does this firm and this opportunity allow me the chance to fulfil my longer-term ambitions?
EAST ANGLIA NQ MARKET
The newly qualified market in East Anglia is always a buoyant one, especially as the region now hosts a number of leading international law firms. Cambridge in particular has grown at unprecedented rates, particularly in the science and technology sector, and salaries for newly qualified lawyers reach the same levels as their city counterparts.
The East Anglian team is headed by Andrew Porter. Andrew has an unrivalled knowledge of the region and his clients. He works closely with all the leading law firms on their newly qualified requirements. He will always make time to give you the advice you need and access to newly qualified opportunities that are often unadvertised.
INTERNATIONAL & OFFSHORE NQ MARKET
In line with previous years we are expecting the Channel Islands to lead the way when it comes to junior international roles. Several of the world’s offshore heavyweights are already gearing up for their 2020 recruitment rounds and we are anticipating lots of activity in corporate, funds, finance and commercial litigation. They promise high-value international work, plenty of client contact and a much better work-life balance, not to mention a London-level salary and the longer-term prospect of a move to the Caribbean or Asia.
City experience is welcome but not a prerequisite. Every year we help trainees from good regional firms make what can be a career-defining move. In the onshore world things are altogether less predictable with hiring usually being delayed until internal processes have been completed, and then depending on which roles remain unfilled. Nevertheless, there is usually a selection of openings in the key markets of the Middle East and Asia, and when they do come up, they can offer some of the best experiences, professional and personal, that an NQ can have. Take a look at our Guide to Building an International Legal Career or contact Jason Horobin for more details.
SEPTEMBER 2020 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. LinkedIn is a great tool for checking your recruiters’ background, if they are unknown to you. Check their online LinkedIn recommendations to see if they have moved candidates similar to you and have experience of your chosen practice area and location. 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. Also try and engineer discussions with your training firm about your final seat. Aim 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 can be viewed by potential employers to support your application. Add a professional picture to your LinkedIn profile if needed and try to ensure you have good, professional content on your page. Your LinkedIn 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 watchful eye on your local market. Also, this is the time to widen the search into different geographical areas or a second-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.