The following Frequently Asked Questions have been compiled from our interactions with trainees over many years, but if there’s something you need to know that’s not covered here, please don’t hesitate to contact BCL directly.
"How do I register with BCL Legal?"
Following your initial contact, we will ask you to send us a copy of your CV so that we may register you. Once we have received your CV , we will telephone you to discuss your aspirations.
How is Associate-performance assessed
Following this conversation, our administration team will contact you by your chosen email address, requesting various documents which we are legally obliged to obtain from you. Upon receipt, we'll register you fully.
"Will BCL Legal send out my CV without my consent?"
BCL Legal will not send your details or CV for any position without your express prior permission.
"I am already registered with another agency. Can I also register with BCL Legal?"
BCL Legal is likely to have different relationships to the agency with whom you are already registered. Providing you are candid about any other agencies you are registered with, and your are clear with each agency about which has your permission to approach each firm, this ought to be entirely manageable.
We recommend that you keep a record about who has done what for you, so as to avoid any problems or conflicts.
"If you find a vacancy that's right for me, what happens next?"
When we receive instructions regarding a relevant vacancy that we think may be of interest to you, we will contact you to discuss it. If you are content to apply for the position, we will forward your details and CV to the prospective employer.
We will then take any feedback and liaise with the firm to arrange any interviews - keeping you updated throughout the process.
"The last job I applied for was my training contract. My CV is out of date. Can you help?"
We are always happy to advise registered candidates on the content of their CV By sending us your CV at the start of the process, BCL Legal has the opportunity to review the information and make constructive comments, which will help you to improve it.
You should concentrate on the areas of law you are most interested in pursuing, and ensure that your CV contains as comprehensive a review of your skills as possible.
See our advice about how to prepare a great CV
"Should I tailor my CV for each application?"
Yes - if you are applying for positions in different areas of law you should highlight the areas of your training relevant to each position.
However, we would not expect NQ experience to be specialised enough to warrant different content for different applications in the same practice area of law.
NQ candidates are likely to register with us whilst undertaking their 4th seat (or 5th/6th seats – depending on the firm's training contract format). If you are currently training (or yet to train) in your preferred discipline, you should update your CV regularly to reflect your growing experience.
"I have not had an interview since my training contract. I do not know what to expect. Can you help?"
At BCL Legal, we work hard to ensure we get as much information about the interview process as possible. We will advise you on the format, what to expect and how to prepare.
Refer to our interview advice to make sure you prepare thoroughly.
Generally, the interview will include a discussion about your CV and the information contained therein.
It is also quite common for firms to run some form of technical legal test. The content of these tests is often closely guarded by our clients. However, we will be able to give some advice on how you might prepare.
"Can I apply for more than one location / practice area of law with the same firm?"
This very much depends upon the firm in question. Some firms are very pragmatic and happy to consider that candidates may have several choices regarding areas of law and/or locations.
Speak to your BCL recruitment consultant who will be happy to advise.
"What salary can I expect to earn?"
This varies wildly from firm to firm, and location to location.
Some firms decide upon their NQ salary quite late in the NQ recruitment process.
BCL Legal will be able to give some advice when you register. This will take into account location, firm and your preferred practice area.
"If I accept a role in a discipline that isn't my preferred choice, will it be possible for me to change discipline later in my career?"
Generally speaking it is possible to move disciplines later on in your career.
Obviously some moves are easier than others to make. Moving from personal injury to clinical negligence is potentially more realistic than moving from criminal to employment law. It is, however, not impossible.
Much will depend upon your strength as a candidate, the market, the recruiting firm's needs and the sacrifices you are prepared to make with regard to your salary.
"I have been offered a position by my existing firm. However, it is not in my chosen practice area. What should I do?"
Many candidates find that they feel loyalty towards their existing firm. In this situation, our advice is to remain pragmatic, but to give your career priority.
Do your best to find out why you have not been offered a position in your preferred practice area. If it transpires that there are no roles available, or that they have been offered to other candidates, you need to carefully weigh your options.
Most firms are understanding of trainees who have a particular desire to qualify in a certain specialism. It may be that your firm's HR team can advise you as to how long you can consider the position you have been offered before making a decision.
BCL Legal will be on hand to advise you as to the current state of the NQ market in your desired practice area, together with your likely prospects given your strength as a candidate.
"How is Associate-performance assessed?"
Because the role of Associate is often seen as the route to partnership, chargeable hours, billing and business development are all likely to be measured. That said, a firm's expectations of its Associates can vary greatly depending upon the size, structure and market position of the firm.
"Will I be expected to win work?"
Whilst there will not usually be an immediate requirement to bring in work, business development is likely to be viewed as a key part of the Associate role in most commercial firms. The ability to win work is a key indicator of the potential to succeed at Partner level.
Consequently, key introductions and work won will be taken into account by firms when the opportunity to promote arises.
"Will my business development and marketing initiatives be given support?"
Whilst the support and investment that will be allocated to Associates varies from firm to firm, any firm committed to the development of its Associates will provide as much support as is practicable. After all, the firm has a vested interest in developing future talent, and enabling Associates to deliver against their business plans.
If you are being interviewed for an Associate position, this is something that you may wish to discuss when the opportunity arises.
"How will I be supported in my personal development and ambitions of partnership?"
This is something worth raising at interview. Most firms measure Associates against key performance indicators such as chargeable hours, recovery, billing, work winning and so on. You will be keen to understand how and when the firm reviews progress, and what their partnership recruitment process looks like.
Most commercial firms will have a formal, structured process in place for partnership applications.
"Do Associates have managerial or non-feeing earning responsibilities?"
Most firms expect Associates to be ambassadors for the firm. In practice, this can involve contributing to corporate social responsibility initiatives and promoting the profile of the firm in the market place.
Enthusiasm for these non-fee earning activities will assist in your career progression.
Associates are also likely to be tasked with supervising more junior members of staff working within their team.
"What if I don't want to be a Partner? Are there any alternatives open to me?"
Today, many commercial firms recognise that there should be an alternative path for career progression tailored to outstanding lawyers who do not aspire to partnership - and all that comes with it.
Many appoint such lawyers to Legal Director roles, which are usually associated with a lesser business development requirement and without the time, administrative and financial commitment that comes with partnership.
"Will I have management responsibility?"
Yes - it's likely that you will. The nature and extent of this will depend upon the size and style of the firm, together with the markets in which it operates.
You will almost certainly have some supervisory responsibility, particularly for Trainee Solicitors.
Whilst the extent of your management responsibility may depend upon your previous experience, you may wish to consider asking the firm about what support you will be given to help you develop as a manager.
"What should my salary expectations be?"
For more junior fee earning roles, salaries are usually determined by set 'bands'. By contrast, Associate salaries are often negotiable.
When joining a firm, your ability to negotiate will depend on your level of experience and whether you have a client following, or can offer anything else which is over and above your peers.
In the future, delivery against key performance indicators and your wider contribution to the firm will all be taken into account upon review of your salary.
"What is the present outlook for aspiring Associates?"
The downturn in the economy has meant that it has become increasingly difficult for both firms and recruiters to predict, with any certainty, what roles and work will be available in the long term.
However, it remains important for a prospective Associate to ask the right questions - to ensure that any position taken up is perceived as long term by the recruiting firm.
You will be keen to know about the firm's business objectives and priorities in the coming year and beyond. For instance, any plan to introduce additional Partners into the team may negatively affect your own career progression. Alternatively, the intention to 'bolt-on' teams of different disciplines may bring exposure to a new client base and positively raise the profile of the firm.
Our recruitment consultants have expert knowledge of the markets in which they operate together with access to an enviable client base. Give them a call today to discuss your aspirations and receive advice tailored to you.