Angharad Warren
Angharad Warren

Articles From the Team

I qualify in September; do I stay at my training firm or move on?

It's NQ season (again!) and by now most firms have completed or will be nearing completion of their internal NQ recruitment process. Staying on at your training firm will be Plan A for most of you and it may well be the right decision but it isn't the only option so don't be tempted to stay just because it's easy. There is a myriad of factors to consider…

  1. Is the offer of employment within the area of law you wish to specialise in? It's better to move firms than accept a second choice in terms of discipline as although not impossible, it's hard to switch disciplines further down the line.
  2. Does your training firm match the scale of your ambition? Training contracts are hard to secure so it may be that you've trained at a firm that’s smaller than you hoped. Securing an NQ role isn't as difficult, so don't make the mistake of believing that because you struggled to secure a training contract, you'll struggle to secure an NQ job elsewhere. This point in your career is the easiest time to make a jump. We often see solicitors move from High Street firms to regionals and regionals to nationals or internationals at the NQ level.
  3. Is your firm in the right location? You may have moved for a training contract and would like to move back home upon qualification and start to build your network locally. Conversely, you may have trained at a smaller firm closer to home but in order to take a step up in terms of the quality of work you'd be better placed at a larger city firm. If you’re relatively commitment-free then it may be that you can move for two to five years while you gain the best grounding in your chosen area of law. The first few years of your career are pivotal so if you need to move to maximise your career potential then it's an option worth considering.
  4. Can your firm provide you with the best training and development opportunities? Developing your technical skills is key in the first few years of your career. If you've trained at a firm with a poor approach to this, then you need to consider a move. Your career will thrive under strong mentors who take your supervision and development seriously.
  5. Does the environment and culture at the firm suit your particular circumstances? With the average age for admission to the roll now standing at 29.2 for women and 30 for men, you may already be at a point where you have children or are planning a family or you might have elderly relatives that need your help. Most of the top tier firms have a great attitude towards flexible working so don't discount those firms for fear they can't meet your requirements. Some smaller firms might not allow remote working or may not have the IT in place to facilitate it so in some cases can be more rigid in their approach. This being said, some smaller firms offer a slower pace and less overtime. Regardless of the size of the firm, culture varies a lot across the board so don't make assumptions about how a particular firm can fit with your lifestyle, find out for yourself.
  6. Does your firm offer a competitive salary, bonus and benefits package? The larger firms tend to pay more. The regions pay less than the City. It's a factor to take into account but less important to a large extent than the quality of work you will be exposed to as well as the training available. If you get these right in the early years, the money will follow further down the line.

When deciding the direction of your career when you're a newly qualified solicitor, make sure you focus on the area of law you enjoy the most. The best lawyers are those who are passionate about what they do. If you can learn from leaders in your chosen field then hopefully one day you will be one of those leaders.

Stay at your training firm if it's the best option for you but don't stay just because it's comfortable or out of loyalty. The NQ level is the easiest time to make a jump so if you have a lot of ambition, now is the time to set yourself on track to realising them. You must put yourself and your career first. The decisions you make as a newly qualified solicitor will impact your entire career, so if you have any question marks over your options then get in touch with one of our experienced legal recruitment consultants at BCL Legal. We can give you a steer on opportunities at other firms, or we may tell you that you are best placed staying where you are if we don't feel there is a better option for you out there. It's worth a conversation at least!

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