Are you an NQ solicitor or approaching qualification? If so, then this is an unmissable guide – shedding light on topics including the current legal market, qualifying and practicing offshore, Brexit, 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 your long term legal career.
Background and Brexit
On reflection 2018 was yet another year where the candidate was in the box seat. The 2018 cohort had a wide range of options alongside very high retention rates. Some law firms successfully retained 100% of their 2016 intake of trainees. If year on year trends follow then we should have between 6,000 and 7,000 more NQ solicitors admitted to the roll in 2019. We now have a record number of UK qualified solicitors at 146,000 and that figure is expected to reach almost 150,000 in 2019.
2019 is the year of Brexit. No one can be certain of its impact on the legal profession. Keith Blakemore, Senior economist for the Law Society Research Unit*, however, has suggested these main features in his most recent forecasts: “UK legal services look to have been relatively buoyant through 2017-18, due to a combination of Brexit-related work, steady demand from UK businesses and an increase in work from non-UK clients taking advantage of the depreciation of the pound.
However, Brexit is likely to have a significant negative effect on the legal sector in the medium and longer term. This is largely due to the knock-on impact of Brexit on the wider economy as demand for legal services is mainly a derived demand.
Our econometric model predicts 2.2% average annual growth from 2019-2025 with a soft Brexit. This drops to just 1.5% with ‘harder’ Brexit such as a Canadatype free trade agreement”. Translating this forecast into recruitment predictions for 2019 is complicated but we are expecting an increase in opportunity within areas such as Regulatory, Compliance, Data Protection, State aid and commercial contracts and agreements. 2018 has been very consistent for Corporate, Real Estate, and Commercial Litigation. Good candidates haven’t struggled to secure the role they want in the City, regionally or Internationally.
At the time of writing, the 2019 market has yet to start but certainly clients are planning ahead and many are already interested in meeting with March / April NQs. We expect firms will want to see candidates early in the year again opening the possibility of transferring training contracts. The consistency in predicted work levels should allow law firms to get their recruitment strategy in place, however we would expect these plans to be tweaked should Brexit have a sudden impact. Law firms continue to structure their internal recruitment processes slightly earlier than in previous years. Some firms are better than others at running these processes but with some firms retaining 100% of trainees, interviews are taking place internally as early as March and April. This in itself presents problems as it coincides with the time you should be starting your final seat. If your 4th seat is your chosen legal area this can present some issues at both internal and external interviews due to a lack of technical, sector knowledge, and a lack of training in the subject.
At this time interview tips and technique are important to secure a position (check out our Resources on interview techniques).
Qualifying today – making the right choice
As you approach qualification it is important not just to think about the role you want immediately in law but your long-term aspirations within the profession. The final year of your training contract is a time to really analyse what you want.
Some of the questions you should ask yourself:
• What type of law do I want to practice?
• Do I want to work in-house, offshore or progress to partnership in the UK?
• Do I want to start my career regionally and then move to London?
• Am I suited to a more client facing role?
• Does my current firm provide the training and quality of work I need to reach my goals?
• Do I have an interest in a particular sector?
• Can I relocate, do I want to relocate?
• Am I the type of person who is good at the marketing and business development side of a legal position?
• What type of law firm best suits my style of working?
Having assessed who you are and what you want from your career, it is a great idea to sharpen your focus on your options in order to start your career in a forward gear. We always recommend you try to secure double seats during your training if you have decided on your area early. This will help give you greater experience in your chosen discipline. NQ solicitor jobs both internally and externally are always very competitive. To give you the marginal gains to beat other candidates we encourage trainees to try and make a wider impact during their training. Perhaps get involved in local young solicitors, business groups or even better create and become president of one. Look for ways to be innovative within the boundaries of your training firm. Make an effort to join marketing committees, chambers of commerce and local forums. Create a social media presence with a good LinkedIn profile and try to share and post as much good quality content as possible. Get involved in your final year as this will make an impact on your interview processes in 2019.
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 expected to start interviews as early as February for September 2019 qualifiers. Expectations are high so the firms do look for strong training in a good commercial law firm but opportunities here are not limited to those with big-City credentials. Trainees at top national or regional firms are often successful in securing roles which offer a clear route to high salaries and international work without the drawbacks of life in the City.
Elsewhere, a limited number of NQ roles come up with international firms in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. They do tend to be heavily sought after so typically, training with a City or International law firm will be expected, but for high-demand practice areas with less City bias such as TMT/IP or construction there may be room for compromise. Vacancies in these locations are more adhoc and less predictable so it pays to register your interest early. They will typically come to the market later however, perhaps May/June for September qualifiers, since many firms will 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 or download a copy in the Resources section of our website www.originlegal.co.uk