Regional Guide for Solicitors Qualifying in 2017

Regional Guide for Solicitors Qualifying in 2017

2017 Regional Guide to NQ Solicitor Recruitment – knowledge provides opportunity

Are you a NQ solicitor or approaching qualification? If you are, then this is an unmissable document shedding light on regional markets, the recruitment process and your ultimate career plans.

Background – a bit of history

In both our 2015 and 2016 NQ Updates we mentioned some fairly dramatic changes in the regional legal NQ recruitment market. If it follows the trends of recent years 2017 should again be a very interesting and fluid market. Historically, if we look back to pre-recession the NQ market would not start gathering pace until June, July or August. Fast forward to 2017 and we are placing September NQ solicitors as early as January and February, and the demand for NQs is already high following a pattern set in both 2015 / 2016.

Demand is driven as firms look to attract the best NQ solicitors possible. Retention rates for 2017 at law firms are showing 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. Some firms struggle with retention rates as there remains such a wide range of opportunities for NQ solicitors

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 NQs 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.

Manchester Bullring
“A very interesting and fluid market”

Qualifying today

The landscape has really changed as we move into 2017. Law firms remain interested in securing the pick of candidates much earlier meaning September NQ positions have been filtering through since the beginning of the year. 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 they are then able to shape their final seat at their training firm to the role they are accepting at their current 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 continued development through 2016 was that a greater number of candidates are transferring the final part of their training contract to their new firm. This has become very common place in the final year of life as a trainee solicitor. This allows NQ candidates the opportunity to integrate with their new team, clients, and even settle into a new location before starting life as a solicitor. In a repeat of 2016 the demand for this situation is happening particularly within Corporate and areas where supply outstrips demand.

“Strategically firms are better at planning for their positions”
water front

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 NQs high, it  might be  wise  to at least consider whether there are better alternatives elsewhere.

The Current Position

As we write this, in January 2017, the March 2017 NQ market is in full swing. The candidates we are working with have found that there remains plenty of choice of opportunity. The current market isn’t as fluid at last September, but depending on practice area candidates are still able to secure 2-3 interviews. September 2016 saw candidates secure 4-5 interviews indicating that demand was clearly higher then. We are unsure if this is due in part to the advent of Brexit but remain very confident that there are plenty of good opportunities for NQs in the regions.

2016 saw an unprecedented early demand for Commercial Property, Planning, Construction and Corporate Finance solicitors. 2017 does not appear to be any different. Already a high number of NQ candidates have informed me that they are in the process of being offered or have been offered a position to be retained by their current practice. Some firms have already released at the time of writing several positions that they would like to source candidates for. Early indications are that Commercial Property and Corporate Finance will be popular and we have also seen a surge in demand for Private Client Solicitors. Apart from a couple of growing Insurance practices the demand for Litigation solicitors remains low.

The way this situation is moving continues to offer multiple benefits to trainee solicitors. It is likely NQs will have a stronger chance of being retained at their current firm in their chosen practice area. The options for NQs 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 a short time-frame. As the market is now this should no longer be an anxious period for trainee solicitors. NQ solicitors have the time and the range of opportunities to take control of their situation and can be a lot moriore proactive about finding that perfect job.

“The demand for good NQ Solicitors appears greater than ever”

In 2016 we noticed a big increase in the diversity of opportunities open to NQ solicitors. NQs 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 “2016 saw an increase in demand for good regional NQ’s to start their careers in a variety of offshore jurisdictions. 2017 looks as though it will continue to offer exciting opportunities to junior solicitors hoping to live and work abroad.”


What do you need to do? – September 2017 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, 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.

"Big increase in the diverse opportunities – private practice, in-house, local government in locations across the UK or internationally”

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 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 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.

For a confidential conversation about the NQ market please contact the team at Origin Legal by phoning on +44 (0)1206 233500 or emailing us at [email protected].

Current Vacancies

Origin Legal offers a comprehensive legal recruitment service to candidates and clients encompassing all levels across all disciplines. For details of current vacancies visit

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The Author

Jason Nottage has been recruiting in the NQ market for 19 years and is one of the main driving forces behind Origin Legal having joined as a director shortly after its launch. An extremely loyal recruiter Jason has developed a strong client following particularly in the Midlands and Northern Home Counties. Jason travelled extensively before settling down in Colchester where he and his wife are bringing up their 3 young daughters.

Resources you may like

Summarise your experience and show how it fits the role with our CV Template

Summarise your experience and show how it fits the role with our NQ CV Template

When it comes to international recruitment, the option to interview over Skype, BlueJeans, or one of the many other online videoconference platforms.