Solicitors Qualifying in 2015 and 2016

2015 Regional Market for Newly Qualified Solicitors.


The legal NQ recruitment market in the Midlands is changing and has been changing over the last 15 years. Historically if we look back to 2000-2005 the NQ market would not start gathering pace until June, July, August. Retention rates at law firms were high as was the demand for good NQ Solicitors in core commercial areas. Firms would look to allocate their internal recruits first and then fill the left over positions externally, close to September. Candidates would find NQ roles through media and specialist publication advertising and would find their recruitment consultant via referral or advertising. Social media, many job boards and LinkedIn were in the embryonic stage or hadn’t evolved. 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 decision in a hurry.

Retention rates within law firms throughout this decade were high (70-80%) until the country entered recession in 2008. During the recession of 2008-2011 retention rates in law firm dropped considerably, particularly in core commercial and real estate areas. Some firms retention rates were as low as 20-30%. A number of NQ solicitors left the profession at this time due to the lack of opportunity. Candidates were forced to relocate to find the right opportunity and to practice law in an area which was not their first choice.

Qualifying today

Looking at the NQ market in the regions now, there has been a sea level change in the process. The biggest difference has been that strategically firms are better at planning for their positions and the allocation of their own internal NQ’s. In a lot of firms the processes have been brought forward as early as February and March in some cases. This has allowed external processes to start much earlier which clearly benefits all involved.  Interviewing and offers for external NQ’s can start as early as February as firms are better placed in organising their internal applications. Some firms have deliberately entered the external NQ market with the intention of sourcing the best available candidates early. At present this situation is happening particularly in Corporate and Commercial Property areas where supply outstrips demand.

Candidates completing their training now have far greater access via the internet  to external NQ roles  while they discuss potential roles with their current firms. Trainees can be increasingly visible to recruiters and law firms through the use of social media which their predecessors lacked so opportunity may find them.

September 2015

2015 has seen an unprecedented early demand for Commercial Property, Planning, Construction and Corporate Finance solicitors. As we approach the end of May and into June a high number of NQ candidates have confirmed that they are being retained by their current practice and firms have released an unusually high number of positions that they would like to source candidates for.

This situation has produced multiple benefits to trainee solicitors. NQ solicitors at present have a strong chance of retention at their current firm in their chosen practice area. 2nd year trainees looking to move have a stronger chance of securing a position within their desired location and should benefit from an increased chance of securing the type of job they are looking for at the right type of firm.

It is always an anxious period for trainee solicitors until the contract is signed on their first position but the biggest benefit of the modern day NQ market is the fact that by starting much earlier in the year it allows both trainees and law firm to explore options in detail without the pressure and stress of time.

One final point to raise is that in 2015 the diversity of opportunity open to NQ solicitors has really opened up. NQ’s can now chose to qualify into private practice, in-house, or local government and can target locations across the UK or internationally.

September 2016 NQ Timetable:


Find a 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.


Prepare your paperwork. Work with your recruiter to format 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. Continue to investigate internal applications


Ensure you have a strong LinkedIn profile which will be view to support your application. 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 interview coaching and support of 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 Vacancies

Nottingham     NQ Corporate, NQ Commercial Property

Leicester        NQ Corporate,  NQ Commercial, NQ Property

Birmingham    NQ Commercial Property, NQ Planning, NQ Construction, NQ Corporate

Lincoln           NQ Commercial Litigation, NQ Commercial Property

Milton Keynes NQ Residential Property, NQ Corporate Commercial

Oxford           NQ Corporate

International   NQ Private Client, NQ Commercial Litigation, NQ Corporate

For a confidential conversation about the NQ market Please contact Jason Nottage [email protected]

About The Author

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