Through over 10 years of recruiting in the legal industry the market has seen unprecedented change. Demand (along with salaries and retention rates) surged between 2005 – 2008 only to hit an all time low as Britain hit recession in 2008. The economic situation in 2008 meant that retention rates were pitifully low, salaries dropped off and there really was no newly qualified market to speak of; with firms unable to retain internal trainees they really couldn’t justify searching for external talent. All in all it was rather bleak! Since 2008 the market has gradually been recovering and following on from two strong years, 2015 really has been ‘the year of the NQ’.
First point to note is that retention rates this year have hit an all time high. http://l2b.thelawyer.com/. As the figures reveal many firms have boasted retention rates over 80% with a number citing the ability to retain 100% of their second year trainees. This is fantastic news giving the newly qualified lawyer stability and continuity without the need to enter the competitive external market. It is a tangible demonstration of what I see every day on the ground as a legal recruiter at BCL Legal; the market is strong, confidence is high and firms are ready and willing to invest in their future talent.
The External Market
2015 has certainly be the year of choice. The impact of unprecedented retention rates is a hugely competitive external market with all firms vying for talent in high demand disciplines. We have seen opportunities across a broad spread of disciplines (in fact its true to say that there really has been something for everyone) but it was no surprise that the most in demand area was real estate, closely followed by corporate. An entirely predictable affect of the real estate boom has been the increase of instructions in niche spin off areas. We have seen fantastic external opportunities in Construction (both contentious and non contentious), planning, and real estate litigation, all with quality firms with a stand out client base. The other notable impact has been the opportunity for NQ’s to take a ‘step up’ from smaller firms into national/international firms and for those without a great deal of experience to make the transition from a private client discipline into the commercial world. Essentially for an ambitious, well prepared and enthusiastic junior lawyer the world is your oyster (or lobster as one NQ told me….).
Yes they have increased! Its no surprise that we have attained the pre-recession pinnacle of the £40,000 newly qualified rate. The majority of the top tier have moved to compete and as such salaries will be pushed up across PQE levels throughout the firm. Not only have the top tier increased their salaries but firms like DWF, Brabners, Mills & Reeve, Freeth Cartwright and Field Fisher have all made moves to ensure that their salary is competitive to enable them to attract the best external talent for their external NQ positions. Its fabulous news all round and means that salaries have aligned with pre recession rates and should now start to slowly increase as confidence increases further fuelling demand.
So far 2015 has been a brilliant year for newly qualified lawyers. As we hit August the season is nearly over but we are still awash with fantastic instructions! If you would like to discuss taking that all important first qualified position please do give me a call and we would be glad to help.