Joe Blackburn
Joe Blackburn
Associate

Articles From the Team

The newly qualified legal jobs bottleneck

It seems there’s a worrying trend developing across commercial disciplines in the Manchester legal market: a general reluctance to take on newly qualified lawyers from external sources.

This comes at a time when Manchester’s legal recruitment market is increasingly candidate-light. In many legal areas, there are multiple long-term live roles, yet candidate attraction, especially at the mid-level, is proving a difficult proposition for firms of all sizes.

There are various reasons for this and a lot of these are well documented, but one of the main causes is self-induced: law firms don’t provide enough pathways into the industry. The number of training contracts awarded by law firms remains at a similar level or slightly reduced; even in the face of a growing demand for lawyers in most areas of law in Manchester.

Secondly, we’ve seen a reduction in NQ lawyer candidates taken on by firms following the completion of their training contract. Our clients seem unwilling to take on NQs even if there’s an existing caseload.

As an example, we have multiple vacancies for corporate solicitors one-year PQE and upwards. The vast majority of these firms won’t consider NQ candidates, even those with extensive corporate experience gained before and during their training contract.

The limited supply of solicitors who are qualifying is only part of the problem - a lot of lawyers leave the law within a few years of practising. You only need to look around my office to see many non-practising solicitors who have left the profession for one reason or another.

This year, and looking back over the last few, we’re seeing more and more candidates unable to secure NQ positions in their chosen area due to a lack of appetite from law firms within the market. This is the same market that’s absolutely desperate for candidates at the 2-5 year PQE level.

Therefore, firms should take a punt on an NQ candidate - this avoids future hiring dilemmas that are caused by a candidate shortage.

Five reasons to hire an NQ now

  • NQ lawyers who hold pre-qualification experience on top of further training that's afforded in the short term after qualification will ensure they're up to speed and running a full caseload faster than waiting to find a more experienced lawyer.
  • BCL Legal has successfully placed many NQ solicitors into roles that originally required further experience.
  • In general, NQs are more driven to learn and prove themselves.
  • Dependent on the exposure during their training contract, it's often the case that an NQ has more experience carrying out all of the responsibilities of a junior solicitor.
  • It's likely that firms insistent on waiting for a more experienced candidate may be waiting for a long time.

If firms continue to be reluctant in hiring NQs who have trained elsewhere, we'll continue to see a vicious cycle when it comes to recruitment.

If trainees aren’t given the chance to be a solicitor in the business areas of law in the first place, they will never become the mid-level lawyer that's heavily in demand.

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