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From The Team

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Will there be an NQ season in 2021?

It is fair to say that 2020’s NQ season was more than a little bit disrupted by Covid 19. Many firms were (quite understandably) cautious about head count and many NQ’s were (again quite understandably) very cautious about being too picky regarding the sort of role they were minded to accept. No company wants to over recruit in uncertain times. No individual wants to risk missing out on a guaranteed job when another might not be waiting around the corner.

So fast forward to 2021 and how are things looking for this years’ NQs. Are we expecting to see a slow recovery of the jobs market – similar to the recovery after the financial crash of 08/09 or can we expect to a see a quicker bounce back?

Before going too much further it is important that to highlight that I specifically look after roles in the South West and M4 corridor for BCL Legal, with Bristol and Reading naturally being the areas from where I do most of my work. Whilst anything I talk about will be influenced by the areas of the country on which I focus my attention – it is my understanding that colleagues are making similar observations in other parts of the country.

The other big caveat here is that, alas, I do not own a crystal ball. So this is conjecture and guess work. All be it I’d like to think that I have sufficient experience to make fairly sensible guesses.

As things stand BCL Legal has returned to (or perhaps exceeded) our pre covid position – in terms of the number of instructions and new roles that we have live. Obviously we don’t create the jobs – therefore the number of instructions that we have is purely and simply reflective of an incredibly buoyant market for legal talent right across the UK.

Why is this important? Well a buoyant market, where law firms need additional headcount almost invariably leads to a busier NQ season with more opportunities for all. A firm that requires 25 more people but only has 15 internal qualifiers is going to need to look externally for at least 10 people! That’s assuming that none of the internal people move on.

...The expectation, therefore, is that 2021’s NQ season will be very busy! So, where will the vacancies fall?

At the moment more than 20% of the roles that I am working on relate to real estate. Some of those focus on development, others on L&T – whilst most are actually pretty mixed. With 1 in 5 vacancies being in commercial property - at the present time – it is inconceivable that there won’t be a large chunk of property roles for September qualifiers.

Continuing the property theme 9% of all roles we have for South West and M4 corridor relate to construction work. The majority of these are mixed or non-contentious.  Whilst a recent surge in corporate instructions sees them take up another 9% of the caseload. Again I’d expect these numbers to pull through for NQ jobs.

So things look good for those that wish to specialise in advisory or transactional work. But what about litigation?

Litigation roles also make up about 9% of my current workload. Again there is variety including commercial litigation, banking litigation and property litigation. Worth noting that I don’t cover insurance litigation roles (these are covered by a colleague) – therefore I’m probably under reporting the percentage – things look good for wannabe litigators.

So with half the market being dominated by 4 disciplines – what does that mean for everything else. Well the good news is that the market is huge. We have the most vacancies in the areas listed above but there are also plenty of opportunities in areas like private client, employment, family and banking. Again I’d fully expect this to pull through into NQ opportunities.

The one note of caution is around commercial contracts and IP/ IT related positions. We presently have only a small number of these probably around 1% of the market. As commercial is always really popular that may mean that there are insufficient opportunities for all. So if you would ideally like to qualify into this I’d suggest getting in touch sooner rather than later.

In conclusion, the market at the moment is very busy. Therefore, we are absolutely expecting the 2021 NQ season to be very busy. As ever the early bird catches the worm and those that seize control of the process early tend to be the NQs that enjoy the most palatable results. So if you are qualifying this year and would like to discuss your options, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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