Qualifying this September? 10 Key Questions to Consider

1)  Which Discipline?

Sounds a very obvious place to start but this will set the platform for how the rest of your legal career will develop. It is a scary thought but this decision will have a massive impact. Some lawyers are absolutely fixed on one area of law whereas others like to keep their options open and have 2/3 areas in mind. There is not anything wrong with the latter but consider how this might dilute your chance of success if you make applications to a number of different areas.

2) Where will I need to show a degree of flexibility?

This will be dictated by the availability of roles you are interested in. For example, most law firms have commercial property departments that are very often recruiting, so in this situation you could afford to be quite specific in your search. Other areas are much more competitive so if you were looking for a role in commercial litigation you may need to be flexible on the type and size of firm or the geographical location, or both.

3) Retained by your training firm or moving externally, which is better?

The answer to this very much depends on your specific set of circumstances. If you can find an area of law that you enjoy and are engaged by the people and culture of your training firm then it is a no brainer to stay. If however you are uncertain about the role you are offered or the cultural fit of your training firm then it’s in your best interests to explore the market.

4) When do the vacancies start to come out?

Now. May through to July are the busiest months but we also see a late spike in August. Most law firms either have finished, or are just about to finish their internal NQ process. This is when they identify where the gaps fall and the vacancies start to appear.

5) How should my CV look?

Your CV is your way of communicating your experience to a prospective employer. The style and format for a newly qualified solicitor is critical. You need to consider the depth of experience that you include and does the CV point specifically to the discipline you are interested in but maintain the experience of a balanced training contract. Also, consider is there anything that makes your CV different and stand out from the other applicants. You should not necessarily stick to chronological order for your training seats and it is important that the seat you want to qualify in is the first that you see.

6) Are interviews different to training contract assessments?

The short answer is yes. In your training contract assessments, your competencies and thought process are looked at. In a NQ interview, these are still looked at but you also have to demonstrate what technical experience you have developed and be able to effectively communicate this.

7) Can I consider in-house roles as a NQ?

You can but you should be very mindful of the structure of any team you will be joining. Are they set up in such a way that will enable you to develop in the crucial formative years of being a solicitor? Typically lawyers will move in-house at 3PQE +.

8) What Salary can I expect?

Salaries for NQ solicitors are very often specifically set and will vary from firm to firm and location to location. You should speak to a specialist legal recruiter who should be able to tell you the salary before making any application.

9) Can I move over in to anther area of law if I do not like my choice?

This will be difficult and is why it’s important that you consider all of the above now so you aren’t in this position. It isn’t impossible to move over to another area of law but it is rare and not without challenges.

10) What should I do next?

If you are approaching qualification and would like to talk through your options, be it how to position yourself internally, market trends or current vacancies then you can contact in confidence any of our expert consultants:

Paul Duffy – Birmingham and the Midlands

Rachael Allport – Bristol and South West

Bin Sparkes – Manchester, Leeds and the North

Oscar Lawrenson – London City

Alex Crump – Northern home counties & the South East

Fraser Turnbull – Scotland 


By Paul Duffy, Manager

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