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Solicitors Qualifying in 2018

Solicitors Qualifying in 2018

Solicitors Qualifying in 2018

Are you a newly qualified solicitor or approaching qualification? If you are, then this invaluable document sheds light on markets, the recruitment process, questions you should consider and your ultimate career plans. Alternatively read a little more here...

Background – a bit of history

As we enter 2018 the pattern of NQ recruitment seems predictably similar to both 2016 and 2017. We are already experiencing a strong appetite for law firms to continue multiple hires in business areas such as Corporate, Real Estate, Planning, Real Estate Development and Construction. Following the trend of recent years 2018 should again be a very interesting and dynamic market.

This year the NQ market is already showing signs of moving early. A lot of the March NQ’s for 2018 have found it fairly straightforward in securing their positions and we are already arranging meetings for some September 2018 candidates. Historically if we look back to pre-recession the NQ market would not start gathering pace until June, July, August.

Fast forward to 2018 and the demand for September NQ’s is already high. This is following the trend set in previous years as law firms seek to recruit the solicitors they need at the earliest opportunity.

The consistency in predicted work levels has allowed law firms to get their recruitment planning in place early in the year. Retention rates for 2018 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 law firms struggle with retention rates as there remains such a wide choice of opportunity for NQ solicitors.

Historically firms would look to allocate their internal recruits first and then fill the leftover 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 – making the right choice

In approaching qualification historically an NQ solicitor would have the same questions to ask themselves and the same decisions to make which included:

  • Can I stay at my training firm?
  • Do I want to remain at my training firm?
  • Where do I want to be based?
  • What is my preferred practice area?

Fast forward to 2018 and in the advent of a wider range of choice there are many more decisions to make:

  • Do I want to work in Private Practice or In-House?
  • Do I want to work in the UK or Internationally?
  • Once I have chosen my practice do I have a specific sector focus or specific area of expertise within a chosen practice area?
  • What type of law firm best suits my style of working?
  • What type of training and support is on offer to develop my experience?

As an NQ it is important to think about where you would like to be in 5 years time and the influence this first job will have on your long term career goals.

There are many more questions that the NQ of 2018 should be asking themselves. I often advise the NQ solicitors that I work with, that this first career choice is one of the most important. It is part of the process for shaping the journey your career will take as a solicitor.

Candidates have been able to secure double seats in their chosen area on qualification to help give them greater experience in their chosen discipline.

2017 saw a continued trend in candidates transferring the final part of their training contract to their new firm. This has become increasingly common 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 2016-2017 the demand for this situation is happening particularly within Corporate and Real Estate areas.

Qualifying today – making the right choice

The Current Position – March 2018

As we write this in February 2018, the March 2018 NQ market is really busy. The candidates we are working with have found that there remains plenty of choice of opportunity. Demand remains high with good candidates able to focus on what they really want and many have successfully found positions almost perfectly matching their expectations.

Looking Ahead – September 2018

The early signs for September 2018 do not indicate any remarkable change from the last two years of NQ recruitment. Already a high number of NQ candidates have informed me that they are in the process of being offered and we have noticed some firms making a concerted effort to keep their NQ’s well informed. Personally, I have experience several firms seeking advice on NQ timelines and social media feeds have been active with debates and articles suggesting law firms secure their trainee solicitors much earlier.

The direction this situation is moving in continues to offer multiple benefits to trainee solicitors. It is likely NQ solicitors will have a stronger chance of being retained at their current firm in their chosen practice area. The options for NQ solicitors to secure a position within their chosen practice area and also their geographical location have increased even if this means moving firms.

One of the biggest benefits of the 2018 NQ market is 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. While the market is in such a positive position it is important that 2018 qualifiers have a clear focus on the decisions they are making.


Internationally, demand for NQ solicitors is highest in the Channel Islands offices of the global offshore law firms. A buoyant market combined with a relatively low level of internal trainees means there are plenty of opportunities for Corporate, Banking, Funds and Commercial Litigation NQ solicitors. This has led to firms beginning their hiring process earlier, with some of the larger ones starting interviews in January for September 2018 qualifiers.

Elsewhere, a small number of NQ roles come up with international firms in the Middle East and Asia, but they do tend to be heavily sought after. We anticipate that vacancies in these locations will come to the market later, perhaps June/July for September qualifiers, since the firms will usually have to consider their own trainees before looking externally. For more information on international opportunities for junior lawyers, ask us for a copy of our Guide to Building an International Legal Career.

See our full report and the timescales NQs should be working towards here.

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