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Opportunities for trainee solicitors qualifying in 2009 are going to be scarce. This is the message we are hearing from law firms up and down the country. So far we have heard that firms are going to be able to offer jobs to 20% to 50% of their own trainees with only a handful of firms are hoping to achieve around 70%-90% retention. Retention rates this low have not been seen for some time. The most recent fall was in 2002-2003 when the economy took a dip and there were fewer opportunities in corporate related disciplines but the demand for real estate lawyers kept the statistics propped up. In recent years there has been a huge demand for newly qualified solicitors particularly in the booming corporate and commercial property sectors. Demand for jobs internally is going to be high and any external jobs that are advertised are going to be fiercely sought after.
James Batt, Director of regional legal recruitment consultancy BCL Legal advises that “it is very important for trainee solicitors who are approaching qualification to consider all the opportunities that are available. They must consider options in other parts of the country and qualifying into areas of law not necessarily their first choice. It is also imperative not to make these decisions too late in the process, make them now”.
The recent trend has been for solicitors to be very narrow in their practice area and to specialise from a very early stage in their career. The changes being made may mean that lawyers eventually gain a wider span of legal knowledge to enable them to give more commercial advice to clients, touching on areas they wouldn’t have had exposure to if they had qualified in the last five years.
There are also going to be fewer opportunities for training contracts and as a result, the number of solicitors qualifying over the next two to three years is going to fall. Due to a continuing deterioration in market conditions Lovells has asked its future trainee solicitors to defer their training contracts in a bid to “smooth out” a bulge in its current intake. The firm has contacted trainees due to join the firm in 2009 and 2010 to ask if they will defer their training contracts. The firm has not confirmed if volunteers will be financially compensated for deferring but conceded the move is linked. Halliwells has just pushed back the start dates for its 76-strong 2009 and 2010 trainee intakes. Half the future joiners have had their start dates deferred by twelve months in return for a cash payment of £4,000. The deferrals have resulted in Halliwells no longer recruiting for September 2011 and only accepting training contract applications commencing in March 2012. Field Fisher Waterhouse has also announced its plans to scrap both its Easter and Summer vacation schemes.
Baker & McKenzie has become the latest law firm to ask its incoming trainees to postpone their start date by up to 12 months. The firm’s London office has asked for volunteers from its September 2009 and 2010 intakes to defer starting their training contracts by either six or twelve months. Those who want to defer for twelve months have been offered a financial incentive of £5,000.
Please contact BCL Legal if you are qualifying this year. Please call 0845 241 0933 or arrange to meet a consultant at 7th Floor, The Lexicon, 10 Mount Street, Manchester M2 5NT
For a full list of our job vacancies visit www.bcllegal.com